Several hundred polygamists braved the rain on Friday, with signs bearing the hashtag #familiesnotfelons, to protest against laws that make their way of life a crime. The demonstration was a response to the United States Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Kody Brown and his four wives’ case against Utah’s bigamy laws. The five are stars on the TLC show “Sister Wives,” People reports.
State legislators are looking to up the punishment for those who are not only convicted of bigamy, but are also convicted of other crimes as well, such as domestic abuse.
Republican Representative, Mike Noel, of Kanab, is the sponsor behind the motion to put these changes in place. His proposal would support the law against any future court challenges.
no, one at a time Kody Brown > Polygamous families protest bigamy law at Utah Capitol https://t.co/2rNDmKe0Q0
— NY FishFry (@thedailyfishfry) February 11, 2017
A news conference was held defending the bill by Noel and a group of women who escaped polygamous communities. In the conference, Noel and the women claimed that polygamous marriages were harmful to the women and children involved. These communities often experience welfare fraud, child abuse, and forced labor, as well as sexual abuse.
Prosecutors say that the ban helps them to convict the polygamists for these types of crimes. Only 10 people from these communities have been charged for violating the law from 2001 to 2011.
The current law in Utah prevents married people from living with an extra spouse or claiming to have a second “spiritual spouse.”
A House committee approved the bill this week and now waits for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
According to court documents, there are about 30,000 polygamists currently living in Utah. Polygamists believe that their way of life leads them to heaven, but other Mormons reject this idea.
Noel himself is a Mormom, and doesn’t like that polygamists refer to themselves as Mormons.
“They’ve hijacked my religion and I actually resent that.”
Brenda Nicholson, a former member of a sect led by Warren Jeffs, rejects polygamists’ claim that these type of relationships are between consenting adults. She says that these women can’t possibly feel like they have a choice if it’s God’s will.
Joe Darger, an organizer of the rally who has three wives, claims that he’s not a criminal for being in a polygamous relationship. He compared his way of life with adultery, and believes it’s unfair to be prosecuted for it.
“If you commit adultery, that’s not a felony. It’s only a crime when you have a family and you pretend to be married.”
[Feature Photo: AP/Rick Bowmer]