A Utah lawmaker on Monday said that a proposal to strip away a key part of state’s polygamy laws was scrapped for this year.
The decision was taken in the wake of a pending legal case.
According to Rep. Jerry Anderson, R-Price, he is abandoning his bill that aims to make Utah laws comply with a federal judge’s ruling that struck down a key part of the state polygamy statute.
US District Judge Clark Waddoups had in December last year, threw out the part of the bigamy law that bans cohabitation.
Waddoups contended that the provision was a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.
The judge also ruled that the second aspect is too broad because it bars consenting adults from living together and criminalizes their intimate sexual relationships.
Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states but the cohabitation clause made Utah’s polygamy law much stricter than in 49 other states.
Bigamy, the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another, is still illegal under the ruling.
Anderson introduced the bill because the cohabitation clause has made polygamous families illegal, creating tough situations for law enforcement.
The lawmaker said that originally he is dropping his proposal because lawmakers don’t want to interfere and also the Utah attorney general’s office might appeal the ruling.
There are times when officers or prosecutors are reluctant to enforce the laws to break up families, he said.
It also keeps those families in the shadows, which interferes with government interests such as US Census counts, he alleged.
Anderson is of the view that governments should use restraint when trying to pass laws based on moral values. “We run into real problems when we try to legislate morality in any case,” he said.
In most polygamous families in Utah, the man is legally married to one woman but only “spiritually married” to the others.
If the polygamy advocacy group Principle Voices records are to be believed. There are an estimated 38,000 fundamentalist Mormons who practice or believe in polygamy.
Most of them live in Utah and other states in the West.