SALT LAKE CITY, July 15, 2011 ( – The polygamous stars of a TLC reality TV series are planning to challenge Utah’s law against bigamy, arguing that it is a violation of their right to a lifestyle choice consistent with their religious beliefs.


Pro-family activists have long warned that redefining marriage to include two men or two women would inevitably lead to legalized polygamy, with polygamists employing the “equality” and “consensual” rhetoric of the gay rights movement. However, gay rights commentators immediately distanced themselves from the polygamists’ suit, with one prominent commentator calling it “a political gift to anti-gay groups nationwide.”

Jonathan Turley, an attorney for the ‘Sister Wives’ stars, told the Associated Press in an email that he would file the lawsuit Wednesday. Turley represents Kody Brown and the four women he calls his wives: Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn.

“We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage,” wrote Turley on his blog. “We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs.”

The lawsuit, wrote Turley, “is a challenge designed to benefit not just polygamists but all citizens who wish to live their lives according to their own values – even if those values run counter to those of the majority in the state.”

Utah attorney general spokesman Paul Murphy told the AP that the state would defend the law, noting, “So far the courts have held that states do have an interest to regulate marriage.”

In previous interviews, Kody Brown has pushed for social acceptance of his definition of marriage as a “civil rights” issue. “Part of our reason for ‘coming out’ is it’s a story that needs to be told,” Brown told the New York Daily News.

The legal development was widely noted by gay news services and blogs, many of which proactively scuttled any comparison between polygamy and same-sex “marriage.” Joe Jarvis of the Joe My God blog called the suit “a political gift to anti-gay groups nationwide,” and a Queerty article discouraged support for the Browns’ lawsuit among gay activists.

Bo Shell of the GA Voice agreed that the comparison was one of “old gay apples to polygamist oranges” – but nonetheless conceded a certain prominent point of contact.

“Rather than running for the hills in fear that I might prove anti-gay activists right, I’ll stand firm in my belief that the Browns, saying nothing of marriage equality, are beginning a fight that should draw immediate empathy from gay folks: the right to do whatever they chose in their own homes in private, consensual matters that don’t involve the government,” wrote Shell.