US Supreme Court declines to hear polygamy case


The US Supreme Court has declined to hear the case of a man and his four wives – stars of a reality TV show – challenging a ban on polygamy in their native state of Utah.

Kody Brown is legally married to Meri but also lives with Janelle, Christine and Robyn. They are members of a fringe religious group, related to Mormon fundamentalism, with polygamy as a core tenet of their beliefs.

Brown and his wives have battled in the courts for seven years against a law in Utah banning polygamy, arguing that it infringes on their freedom of speech and religion. They are the stars of the show “Sister Wives,” which airs on TLC and documents the life of a “plural” family.

In December 2013, the Browns won a surprising legal victory when a federal court ruled that Utah’s law against bigamy was unconstitutional. But an appeals court overturned that judgment in 2016.

The Supreme Court in Washington declined to add the case to its schedule Monday, without giving any reason for its decision, thereby leaving the appeal court’s decision in place. The high court has not ruled on a polygamy case since 1878 when it declared that a law prohibiting bigamy was valid.

Jonathan Turley, a lawyer for the Brown family, said they were “disappointed… but not surprised” by the Supreme Court’s decision declining to take the case.

“The decision will obviously not end the struggle for equal protection and due process under the law. The Browns have remained committed to that cause and will continue to advocate on behalf of religious freedom and plural families,” he said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of Mormon fundamentalists, mostly living in the western part of the United States, continue to practice polygamy. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the formal name of the Mormon church, has banned polygamy since 1890.