Dec 16, 2013 03:59 PM EST

Polygamy Now Legal In Utah, Says Federal Judge [VIDEO & REPORT]


A federal judge decriminalized key parts of Utah's polygamy laws and declared them unconstitutional, according to MSN News.

Advocacy groups and supporters of polygamy hailed the decision of U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups saying it will remove threat of arrest against families in polygamous arrangements.

The court ruling was handed down last Friday, December 13, in which it says a provision in provision of Utah that forbids a person cohabiting with another violated the First Amendment of the U. Constitution, which guarantees and safeguards basic rights, including freedom of religion, the report said.

The ruling was in favor of Kody Brown and his family who filed a lawsuit in July 2011. The Brown family fled Utah for Las Vegas to avoid prosecution. Kody Brown has four wives who star in the TLC cable TV reality show "Sister Wives."

"Polygamous families have lived under the threat of arrest for decades and no longer have to worry about being charged with a felony," Anne Wilde, co-founder of Principle Voices, a polygamy advocacy group. "There are an estimated 38,000 fundamentalist Mormons who practice or believe in polygamy, most living in Utah and other Western states."

"Now that we're no longer felons, that's a huge relief," she said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They no longer have to be afraid that someone will knock at their door and take away their kids. This decision will hopefully take away the stigma of living a principle that's a strongly held religious belief."

Wilde was a plural wife for 33 years until her husband died, the report said.

Polygamy is part of the early teachings of the Mormon church, but its mainstream wing abandoned its practice during the 1890s as Utah moved toward U.S. statehood. At present, the Mormon church strictly prohibits its practice.

Eric Hawkins, spokesman of the church issued a statement last Saturday saying, "The polygamists and polygamist organizations in parts of the western United States and Canada have no affiliation whatsoever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, despite the fact that the term 'Mormon' - widely understood to be a nickname for Latter-day Saints - is sometimes misleadingly applied to them."

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