A federal judge in Utah has issued a final ruling that strikes down parts of the state’s anti-polygamy law in a lawsuit filed by the family that appears on the TV show “Sister Wives.”
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups ruled in favor of the stars of the TLC reality show in December, but he held back on a final ruling as he weighed whether Kody Brown and his four wives could collect attorneys’ fees.
Waddoups ruled in their favor on that issue Wednesday, capping a landmark decision for the family that sued Utah in 2011 after a county prosecutor threatened to charge them following the premiere of the TV show. It wasn’t immediately clear how much the Browns could collect in attorneys’ fees.
Waddoups had ruled that a provision of Utah’s law forbidding cohabitation violated the Browns’ freedom of religion.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in February he intended to appeal the ruling once it was made final. On Wednesday, his office said in a written statement that it was reviewing the ruling and “will make final determination of whether or not to appeal one or more of the issues in the decision within the coming weeks.”
The Brown family was overwhelmed and thankful for the ruling, said their attorney, Jonathan Turley.
“This was a historic ruling that I believe will stand the test of time,” Turley said. He said the family would continue the legal battle to an appeals court or even the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
The Browns said they were forced to leave Utah for Las Vegas in 2011 in fear of prosecution. Turley said Wednesday he didn’t know if the Brown family would return in the wake of the ruling.
“The important thing is that they now can move back to Utah,” Turley said, adding that the family has missed the state. “They now have the choice.”
Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The mainstream Mormon church strictly prohibits the practice.
Associated Press writer Michelle Price in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
SOURCE: LINDSAY WHITEHURST
The Associated Press