The lawsuit is not demanding that states recognize polygamous marriage. Instead, the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the “intimate conduct” of consenting adults. It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own “intimate conduct” so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses.I think the Lawrence-based argument for decriminalizing polygamy is much stronger than the Lawrence-based argument for requiring the government to give legal recognition to same-sex marriage. One is an argument demanding only that the government leave them alone as they pursue their "own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." The other is a demand that the government alter its treatment of its citizens, giving them access to to the benefits of having the official status as a married couple.
Mr. Brown has a civil marriage with only one of his wives; the rest are “sister wives,” not formally wedded. The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church, a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church, which gave up polygamy around 1890 as Utah was seeking statehood.
Making polygamous unions illegal, they argue, violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, as well as the free exercise, establishment, free speech and freedom of association clauses of the First Amendment.
“We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs,” Mr. Brown said in a statement provided by his lead attorney, Jonathan Turley, who is a law professor at George Washington University.
The connection with Lawrence v. Texas, a case that broadened legal rights for gay people, is sensitive for those who have sought the right of same-sex marriage. Opponents of such unions often refer to polygamy as one of the all-but-inevitable outcomes of allowing same-sex marriage. In his dissenting opinion in the Lawrence case, Justice Antonin Scalia cited a threat to state laws “based on moral choices” against “bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality and obscenity.”
July 12, 2011
To be filed by Kody Brown, the husband of 4 wives (who starred in the reality show "Sister Wives"):