Utah Senate Committee Unanimously Votes To Decriminalize Polygamy

Darren.Woon

Polygamy, by itself in Utah, constitutes a felony, and a measure by a Utah Senate committee moves to decriminalize it.

The Utah Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee voted unanimously to endorse a bill that would decriminalize polygamy among consenting adults, according to The Salt Lake Tribune

Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson argued that the state’s current law classifies polygamy as a felony and is unenforceable absent other crimes. 

Henderson said that rather than eliminate polygamy, the state’s laws have created “a full-blown human rights crisis” in which victims of abuse and fraud are afraid to come forward. Otherwise law-abiding citizens are labeled as criminals in they engage in polygamous relations. 

“The people that I have spoken with long to feel part of society,” Henderson said. “They are tired of being treated like second-class citizens. They feel like Utah has legalized prejudice against them. They want to be honest people, but feel like they have to lie or teach their children to lie about their families in order to stay safe.”

If the SB102 becomes law, polygamy among consenting adults would be reduced to an infraction. Infractions in Utah carry no jail time and punishments can be fines of up to $750 and community service. 

Current Utah law makes polygamy a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. If the defendant is also convicted of fraud, child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, of human smuggling or trafficking, they could face up to 15 years. Those enhancements would be left intact. 

“This is better than what we are doing now, and I have not heard a single person bring forward a better solution,” said West Valley City Republican Sen. Dan Thatcher. “Sometimes doing nothing is a better solution. In this case, I think [Henderson has] brought us something that is better than doing nothing.”

The bill will move to the full Senate. 

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