Incoming Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has announced that his office intends to appeal the ruling striking down the criminalization of cohabitation in the Sister Wives case. The decision will ultimately send the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, Colorado. However, the trial court has not yet issued a final order due to a couple outstanding issues. Once that order is issued, the Attorney General’s office will have 30 days to file a notice of appeal. In a surprising decision, the Attorney General also indicated that he will no longer have his office defend the Utah ban on same-sex marriage (struck down by Judge Robert Shelby) and possibly the cohabitation law (struck down by Judge Clark Waddoups). That will require the hiring of outside counsel and an outside firm to defend these laws as opposed to the Office of the Attorney General itself.
As lead counsel to the Brown family, I am confident that the rights secured in Judge Waddoups decision will be ultimately upheld. While we encouraged the state not to appeal this historic decision, we are prepared for this appeal and eager to present our arguments to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
It is particularly disappointing to hear that the incoming Attorney General of Utah, Sean Reyes, would make his first public announcement a challenge to a decision affirming the freedom of religion as well as privacy. His appeal will necessarily argue that the free exercise of religion under the first amendment should be more narrowly construed in favor of the government. He will also have to oppose the principle that consenting adults have a right to live according to their own values so long as they do not harm others.
Let us be clear. This is a discretionary appeal and nothing compels the state or Mr. Reyes to try to reverse the District Court of Utah. Mr. Reyes takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. Fighting to strip citizens of core rights of religious freedom and privacy is hardly a necessary or a redeeming act for any public official. Nevertheless, these are not Utahan rights but American rights. It will be an honor to defend this decision, and the rights of the Brown family, in Denver.
Lead Counsel to the Brown family
December 26, 2013
Kody Brown issued the following statement on behalf of the Brown family:
We are obviously disappointed by news that the incoming Attorney General has decided to appeal the decision to strike down the criminalization of polygamy. We left Utah after being subject to two years of investigation by prosecutors who called us felons because we chose to live as a plural family. We were told by our lead counsel, Professor Jonathan Turley, that we will now go to Colorado to defend this decision protecting our religious and privacy rights. While we regret the decision of the incoming Attorney General to try to strip our family of these rights, we look forward to arguing the case before the federal court of appeals and have absolute confidence in our cause and our counsel. Out of respect to the court, we intend to continue to limit our public discussion of this case. We want to let the legal process run its course and for the focus to be on the important legal issues of this case. Those issues go beyond our family and, with this appeal, will now hopefully benefit families beyond Utah.