Sisters Wives Case Goes To The Tenth Circuit [Updated]

240px-sister_wives_tv_series_logo300px-US-CourtOfAppeals-10thCircuit-Seal1I am in Denver this morning about to argue the Sister Wives case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. There will be a delay in posting today as a result.

Last year, United States District Court Judge Clarke Waddoups handed down his final ruling in favor of my clients in the Sister Wives case. Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes filed his notice of appeal in the case — a move that now takes this historic case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver and potentially to the Supreme Court.

Previously, Judge Waddoups handed down an historic ruling striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional.

The argument this morning will occur at 8:30 am in Courtroom III.

Updated: the argument today was vigorous and all of the judges asked highly probative questions to both sides. The government has conceded that it has waived any defense to “hybrid” constitutional claims on appeal. The panel pressed both parties on mootness and standing issues. One surprise was that the government announced that the legislature is now considering a change to the statutory language of the cohabitation provision. Whether this would change the case or even moot the appeal is still unclear since we have not seen the language.

I ran from the courthouse to switch flights to a departure today due to the winter storm. I just arrived at the Denver airport so I will not be able to post anything additional for a while. This flight appears my one hope of making it back before the storm hits.

25 thoughts on “Sisters Wives Case Goes To The Tenth Circuit [Updated]

  1. Good luck JT. And it doesn’t look like you’ll be getting home, unless you have a flight back today. Denver is a good town in which to be stranded.

  2. When I read district court Judge Waddoups’ opinion, all 90 plus pages of it, I got the distinct impression, due to his laborious work on the opinion, that he wanted to provide all the ammunition for future courts to end the suppression of free association. If Lawrence v. Texas is about anything, it is about the freedom of two people to associate in any manner they choose. Why that would be stop at two people seems impossible now that I have read Wadoups’ decision.

  3. Last yr’s USSC ruling based on “feelings” (my word) was sure to lead to cases like this. A result (outgrowth) of that ruling will reverberate through health care, housing, divorce and even the military (the UCMJ adultery article for one).

    Just looking at divorce—three people and one is either kicked out or leaves….who pays support?….define community property…..if all three break up—-child support, visitation?

    There is an equation for group dynamics (n-1 factorial). With a triad, a person has 3 relationships (one pair and two individuals). Now with 5 each has 10 relational “bodies” to keep track of (each individual plus the various sort groups). With one child added, it’s now 15 relational entities.

    Chaos is coming

  4. HumpinDog and his wife Betty Lou Thelma Liz (a human) are awaiting the results. The marriage between dog and human needs to be recognized in all fifty states.

  5. It’s none of Utah’s business who sleeps with whom. This is not about legalizing polygamy, but rather making cohabitation or sleeping with other people while married legal. I think issues such as adultery should only be relevant to divorce proceedings. (As I oppose no fault divorce laws.)

    The marriage is not recognized by the government. It’s a religious ceremony. Legally, I believe their situation is similar to someone who has a long term mistress who is friends with his wife.

    I do, however, draw the line on legally recognizing polygamous marriage. Call any number of consenting adults “sister wives” to your heart’s content, but don’t make it a recognized form of marriage with benefits. It is not a healthy lifestyle. The math literally does not work if too many people partake in it. If one male takes up many females as mate, in a 50/50 distribution of the sexes, you get too many males left out. That led to the “Lost Boys” trail of tears in Yearning for Zion. Studies also show that polygamous wives are far more unhappy than monogamous wives. Which is common sense when your husband is down the hall (or next door) having sex with other women.

    If they keep this part of their private lives, and don’t make it a government-recognized form of marriage, then it’s none of my business. If they were to legally recognize it as a form of marriage, divorce would be very complicated. Let’s say a man took most of one of his working wives’ income. I suppose if she wanted to escape the lifestyle, she could end up financially supporting all the sister wives she left behind. And they would have to set up visitation and shared custody with all the sister wives, since they would be her legally recognized spouses. It would be a huge mess.

    I’ve watched several episodes of the show years ago. They all seem like nice people. I wonder why those nice, intelligent women are content with 1/4 of a husband, and why they think God wants their husband to sleep with other women while they remain faithful.

  6. Karen

    I’m pretty much in agreement. A polygamous relationship is one purely of choice. No one is born with a predisposition to be with someone of the same sex, etc. The state should stay out of the bedroom unless the participants are forced or under age and the relationship should stay out of the state when it comes to rights and benefits, etc.

    I remember relationships in the late sixties and seventies like this and none of them were healthy nor did they endure. Those participating in them seemed to feel inclined to defend them regardless of whether any one gave a sh*t.

  7. correction.. Some people are born physiologically predisposed to be with someone of the same sex, not so in group stuff.

  8. Mark Twain made some comments on the topic in his book Roughing It. These might be helpful in the oral argument today.

    Our stay in Salt Lake City amounted to only two days, and therefore we had no time to make the customary inquisition into the workings of polygamy and get up the usual statistics and deductions preparatory to calling the attention of the nation at large once more to the matter.

    I had the will to do it. With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here—until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically “homely” creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, “No–the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure–and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.”

  9. Most of the residents of Utah are blithering mormons morons anyways so it’s no surprise this jackass Utah Attorney General, Sean Reyes can’t let go of his ignorance and stupidity. The laws of polygamy only extends to corporate state statutes/codes and unless someone marries two or more women and enters into it with a state codified marriage license, there is no polygamy.

  10. Hope that the appeals, by Utah AG, is struck down and the Browns’ decision is stayed.

    “If one male takes up many females as mate, in a 50/50 distribution of the sexes, you get too many males left out.”

    The 2010 Census provided information that there is no 1:1 of male/female ratio. There’s more females, who are eligible for marriage. On the other hand, if every man practiced polygamy, the 50/50 distribution of sexes would become real unless there are more females being born. The data provided by the Census is difficult to tell but in counties, there were more females born than were males. In other counties, there were more males born than there were females.

    Not every man will consider the idea of polygamy and pursue it. Even if they did consider and pursue the idea of polygamy, how many men do you believe were whole-heartedly responsible, caring, loving, and unconditional to his wives? There could be a good number of those men; considering the state of our society today, there’s not enough responsible men who are willing to care for the females who are eligible for marriage but haven’t married just yet.

    “Studies also show that polygamous wives are far more unhappy than monogamous wives. ”


    I’d love to see that study. Also, there needs to be a study comparing monogamous families with polygamous families in relation to marriage and divorce rates. It would not surprise me one bit if monogamous families ended up in more divorces but polygamous families stayed together and faced less divorces. This is the kind of study I want to look into.

    However, abuses within the family is not to be tolerated. In a polygamous setting, every child has to be born and cared for, not sexually, mentally, physiclally abused just because there’s more children living under the roof.

    Even having a family of my own, I would definitely consider Vasagel as the perfect birth control pill for me. I would keep using it to plan out a family, and keep the limit of children at a set number for each wife. No wife is going to end up with more than just 4, maybe 5 children. Even then, each and every wife must have a job they can go to work, most preferrably a college degree job. This will help pool the resources together with me; I also will be working two different college degrees, and potentially maybe more.

    Just because the man isn’t working doesn’t mean all polygamous men aren’t working.

  11. Is there some relationship between “morons” and “mormoms? Does “mormoms” have anything to do with moms or mothers?

  12. Homosexual men however are a protected class. Heterosexual men, the subject of much abuse.
    Let’s see how long the US lasts if heterosexual men revolt.

  13. @john smith The refusal to recognize polygamy does not amount to discrimination against men.

    The refusal to recognize polygamy would be a violation of the 1st Amendment, the 14th amendment, and other laws.

    Those anti-polygamy laws were based off of fear-mongering and hatred toward the Mormons. What Congress at the time did not know was that Jewish people, in ancient times, were polygamous. What Congress also did not know was that Native Americans were also polygamous before the Europeans arrived. What Congress did not know was that polygamy was the oldest, traditional marriage. Monogamy was Roman-instituted and carried over across nations.

    For kicks, read this:

  14. @Beldar if you’re writing the jibe of “morons” and “Mormoms” toward me, let me be clear. I’m not a Mormon. I grew up among Christians. The theological text in the KJV explains that polygamy can’t be conceived of as sin. The sins regarding polygamy isn’t the marriage. It’s how men use it. Plus, polygamy cannot be attributed to as adultery. Adultery and polygamy are two separate words that have different meanings.

    I won’t go into the religious context on here as it is not appropriate. However, do be mindful of Mormons who do practice this. They are the “real” Mormons as opposed to the LDS who strayed far from Joseph Smith’s damnation.

    Lastly, the right to marry multiple partners should be granted under the Constitution as per the 1st, 14th Amendments. If gays can invoke the 14th Amendment, polygamists can invoke it too as well. I hope this decision stays Waddoups’s decision. It is that fundamentally important and Utah keeps changing the law to violate those polygamists’ rights. Anything they do to circumvent their rights under the 1st and 14th Amendment is unconstitutional. What is not unconstitutional is if minors are being exploited, abused, or lured into marriages that don’t literally work. That’s when police do need to step in. Other than that, if there’s consenting adults who are willing to do this type of marriage, we, I mean strongly all of us outside their fence, are not allowed to interfere. Not even government.

  15. The New Testament and Polygamy

    A legal doctrine exists, used to interpret statutes, and is often expressed in Greek as expressio unius est exclusio alterius. It means the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another. As an example, if a statute states that all American men between the ages of 18 and 45 must register for the draft, you could reasonably interpret that statute to mean if you were under 18 years of age or over age 45, you do not have to register.

    Now consider this phrase, found in the Bible at 1 Timothy 3:12, from the King James Version:

    “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”

    Applying the Expressio Unis doctrine, if you are not a deacon of a church, you can have more than one wife.

    While you ponder this concept, don’t be tempted to think that other Biblical translations will be more inline with your belief system that the Bible is inherently monogamous. Go to and you will find dozens of translations saying essential the same thing, many in fact are identical to the King James version.


  16. @Killing with Drones

    In fact, if you check the text in Greek, what does it say in regards to one? Mia.

    Check here: <– Mia means one or first, of one or a, other.

    For the actual word meaning literally just one, it should have been this word: <— heis, meaning the primary number of one.

    Why did Paul not use heis? Of course, he used mia because there were people who practiced polygamy at the time. Also, even though Paul did suggest that the deacons be husbands of one wife, read the first verse:

    "This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work." – KJV 1 Tim 3:1

    Paul never said, "I command thee, by the grace of God, that if thou seek the office of the Bishop, thou shalt do the following." Read Paul's language again. He was suggesting what would be found in a man when he seeks the office. Of course, many men would fail some or most of the desirable traits found in a bishop or a deacon but he expounded that the qualifications of a bishop or deacon must be exemplified through those traits, not necessarily compulsory.

    So, a deacon can have more than one wife in theory. Here's one obvious problem. If the deacon grows his family by more than just one wife, and loses focus or attention on the ministry, he would fail at his job. The Bible requires that a man, who serves God, needs to focus on God. In order to do that, his attention cannot be so divided among so many wives. It is acceptable then that bishops or deacons be given a limit to how many they can have, i.e. the limit on kings to multiply by wives, multiply gold, etc.

    Other than that, laymen can marry more than one wife which does not produce sin.

  17. I had a good working and friendship relationship with a terrific RC priest as I had an Episcopal parish across the street and we did a number of celebration s together.

    When our copier failed he gave us access to theirs.

    I came to understand why RC priests are kept unmarried. No wife would put up with the working hours. (Leave the crude remarks alone folks.)

    Just an observation from a retired clergy (one 40+yr marriage and one adult child.)

  18. @Renegade

    I still fail to see how the RCC would actually allow priests to remain unmarried. Celibacy isn’t a virtue that most people actually pursue for the rest of their lives. Few, if any, would pursue it to its end and succeed in not having physical contact with people they met.

    There’s a reason why the pedophile scandals were rocking the RCC here in America, Ireland, and other places. Those priests weren’t celibate. They were using religious authority to have access to children. If piety is a virtue strongly advocated by the RCC, sweeping the abuses under the rug won’t do well.

    I can understand that there are RCC priests who can stay celibate, remain above reproach when regarding children and other people; but as time goes on, we don’t know the exact numbers of people who are willing to seek out such vices.

    Simply apologizing will not help the RCC. Actively removing and defrocking, shaming those priests might work but won’t fully end those problems in third world nations.

    By the way, I used to be Episcoplian until I moved to becoming a Baptist. I have seen priests there who have had strong patience but others who did not. A certain Ned Bowersex was certainly vexed with my sister when she was at least 10 or 11. She questioned the Bible, asked many questions. There were questions that Mr. Bowersex could not answer. In doing so, he had to remove my sister and me, my brother outside of the Episcopal school. We were no longer allowed there.

    No hard feelings against Mr. Bowersex but I have to admit, if Christianity is about saving souls, why turn away or abuse those who may need it?

  19. Texan P

    Appreciate the note.. Please do note that my anecdotal reminiscing re. Fr. O’s hard work and long hours was in humor in re. my experience of being married and trying to “do the job.”

    BTW my being married had nothing to do with whether or not I could be drawn to pederasty. That’s almost like saying long tours at sea leads to sailors being adverse to bending over to p/u the soap dropped in the shower. One, after a week at sea there isn’t much of a drive except to eat, sleep and not sleep on watch. Two, when the boat is called away in a liberty port call, there is a resurrection of Biblical proportions (Tongue-in-cheek pun?) and a financial redistribution that would make progressives beam.

    Interestingly my wife almost got me over to the Baptists shortly after we were married by a Methodist minister in a Navy Chapel on North Isl. NAS while we were both “non-aviation” types. (Seminary was much later)

    Have to say that the climate in TEC is so different now that any interpretation is welcomed except the idea of “saving souls.” An example is the prospectus for the next bishop for Spokane (Eastern Washignton). Not one mention about centrality of Scripture or salvation through Christ.

    Now many on this thread may try to shred my concern. But when one takes an oath such as the one made at a bishop installation, it is clear. One should not assume wearing the collar answers the concern. Not sure what the difference is between a lot of mainline churches and the Rotary and other service organizations, except that Rotary folks clearly know their differentiating mission statement. Ask any Episcopalian what are their tradition’s four central precepts. I’ll be very surprised if they can articulate the first one…has to do with salvation. Hmmmm. I have a hard time finding fellow clergy knowing the 4. Much less the detail of the church’s emblem.

    Ok I’m done. Time to find my sherry, pipe, slippers, book and favorite chair by the fireplace….NOT.

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