Utah lawmakers move to decriminalize polygamy


Rick Bowmer

FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2017, file photo, Kody Brown, left, from "Sister Wives," a popular TV reality series about a polygamous family, marches during a protest at the state Capitol, in Salt Lake City. After nine people belonging to a Mormon offshoot community were killed in Mexico the first week of November 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a short statement expressing sympathy for the victims while clarifying that they didn't belong to the mainstream church. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Kaleb Shaeffer, Sports and Clubs Section Editor

Lawmakers seek to decriminalize polygamy between consenting adults. 


A bill proposed by Sen. Deidre Henderson will reclassify bigamy (the act of marrying someone while legally married to another person) or colloquially polygamy, Which was  a third-degree felonythe penalty for which is up to five years in prison), and will reduce the penalty to community service and up to a $750 dollar fine, similar to a traffic violation. 


The bill will still classify bigamy as a felony if coercion is involved, if the marraige is under false pretenses, if it is not between legal consenting adults, and if one or more of the parties involved are convicted of child abuse, kidnapping, and similar crimes.


The broader purpose of the bill is to “to give some certainty to otherwise law-abiding consenting adults who practice polygamy while also allowing for enhanced penalties for those who commit other serious crimes,” Sen. Henderson told The Wall Street Journal. “I think that, it wasn’t really necessary… it doesn’t really change anything,” says Beck Kiernan about decriminalization.


This bill may encourage abuse victims, or those in forced marriages to seek help without the fear of facing a felony and possible prison time. 


Polygamy was outlawed in Utah in 1880, and by the Church on Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1890, as Utah was seeking statehood. In 1935, the state criminalized bigamy, punshing polygamists to the outskirts, societally and geographically.


The current bigamy law has been challenged multiple times, most notably by stars of the reality television show ‘Sister Wives.’