Social conservatives are raising concern with a controversial ruling that struck down key parts of Utah’s polygamy law, claiming the ruling also provides more latitude to same-sex couples.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups struck down a portion of Utah’s bigamy laws, claiming they are unconstitutional.
The case, Brown vs. Buhman, was brought by a polygamous family whose lives have been chronicled on the TLC network’s "Sister Wives” reality show.
Even though polygamy is illegal in all 50 states, Utah’s law is unique because a person can be found guilty not just for having two legal marriages but also for living with another adult in a marriage-like relationship when they are legally married to someone else.
Waddoups struck down Utah’s law, saying it was too broad and unfairly criminalizes sexual relationships between consenting adults or those who want to live together. Specifically, his ruling said Utah’s law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments – ensuring religious rights as well as due process.
Both the Family Research Council and The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission reacted to Friday’s ruling by arguing it was a continuation of the so-called attack on marriage -- which they claim started with the push by states to approve same-sex marriage.
"If love and mutual consent become the definition of what the boundaries of marriage are, can we as a society any longer even define marriage coherently?" FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement.
The National Organization for Marriage took it a step further, warning of the possibility of a Supreme Court battle over polygamy.
“For years, we have warned of the importance of preserving the norms of marriage and its definition as the union of one man and one woman. Now we see the next step in the path of consequences for abandoning those norms. Left on its current course, in a few years marriage could be unrecognizable,” Brian Brown, president of NOM, said in a written statement.
Despite the concerns, the ruling may not go as far as the organizations seem to imply.
The ruling was seen as a victory for the TLC star Kody Brown and his four wives. The Brown family had sued over Utah’s bigamy laws in July 2011. Brown, his four wives and 17 children, left Utah and moved to Las Vegas in 2012 under the threat of prosecution.