Polygamy - Public Domain

A federal judge declared a portion of Utah’s polygamy ban unconstitutional late Wednesday, essentially decriminalizing polygamy in the state.

U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled the phrase in the law “‘or cohabits with another person’ is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is without a rational basis under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by reality TV polygamist Kody Brown and his wives, who left Utah fearing prosecution. They sued the state, arguing that the ban violated their right to freely practice their religion.

The ruling follows a similar order in December of last year that the judge took back while he decided the issue of damages. In the order, Judge Waddoups did preserve the phrases “marry” and “purports to marry” to “save the statute from being invalidated in its entirety.”

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