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Honest Polygamy is No Longer a Felony Crime in Utah

Date: May 12, 2020
Word Count: 1000 words
Cross-Reference: de-criminalization, Utah, statutes

Effective May 12, 2020, history is made as new Utah state law de-felonizes bigamy, reducing it down to only an infraction when no other crimes or coercion are involved.

Effective May 12, 2020, history is made as new Utah state law de-felonizes bigamy, reducing it down to only an infraction when no other crimes or coercion are involved.

May 12, 2020, is now a historic date for Unrelated Consenting Adult Polygamy (UCAP). From this date forward, normal polygamous families no longer fear a jail sentence in Utah. When no other crimes or coercion are involved, all bigamy charges under the law in Utah are reduced to nothing more than an infraction. While that charge is diminished to the equivalence of a parking ticket, the very notion of innocent polygamy no longer being prosecuted as a felony is certainly a positive statutory step in the path toward eventually complete de-criminalization of UCAP polygamy.

Back in September 2019, Deidre Henderson, a Republican State Senator representing Spanish Fork, Utah, publicly planned to propose the bill for the coming 2020 legislative session. Rather than seeking a political "liberty" position, her proposal's intent sought to empower people in polygamous families to be free to report real crimes.

Independent Utah Mormon polygamist Joe Darger had "been speaking to legislators and arguing that [real criminals] won't be prosecuted if people fear they or their mothers will be arrested for polygamy," according to The Salt Lake Journal on September 2, 2019.

Further explaining that position, National Polygamy Advocate ™ Mark Henkel told FOX News on September 4, 2019, "When you generalize to criminalize, you tyrannize."

Seeking to lower expectations last Fall, Henkel pointed out in that interview how local government and media (of that which he calls the "Mormonland Bubble" of Utah/Arizona, et al) do not typically follow any principle of "separation of church and state." The would-be "mainstream" LDS institution, also known as "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," religiously decrees that government and media may not identify Mormon polygamists with the adjective "Mormon." Local government and media consistently obey that religious gag-order - purposely refusing to ever include the modifying adjective, "Mormon," as applicable to anyone whose polygamy is premised on any doctrine exclusively obtained in Mormon-based theology, such as Doctrines & Covenants 132. Because of that past-proven obedience by local government and media to always generalize and to never specifically identify polygamists with their applicable adjectives (such as Mormon polygamy), Mark Henkel purposely prepared cautiously lowered expectations for Utah State Senator Deidre Henderson's new proposed bill.

Going forward, local Mormon polygamists continued to lobby and emphasize the necessity and benefits of Henderson's proposal to rightly empower members of polygamous families to be sufficiently safe to report real crimes.

On February 7, 2020, Senator Henderson wrote an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune to explain the crisis caused by the old law, titled, "Utah's polygamy law creates a culture of fear and abuse." She wrote, "Don't prosecute otherwise law-abiding polygamists, but instead focus on actual crimes like fraud and abuse. We want to encourage more reporting and easier investigation of abuse, and the way to do that, after consulting with prosecutors and polygamists alike, is to reduce the criminal penalty so the high barrier to community integration is lowered." Henderson therein concluded, "Branding all polygamists as felons has facilitated abuse, not eliminated polygamy. I'm committed to addressing this home-grown human rights crisis so that Utah no longer has a shadow society where predators can thrive."

On February 14, 2020, the Utah Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill.

The Utah House of Representatives added a small amendment to the bill. The Senate subsequently approved that amendment. The amended bill was then sent back for final passage.

On February 26, 2020, the bill easily passed in the Utah House of Representatives by a 70-3-2 vote.

On March 18, 2020, Senator Henderson, with her bill passed by veto-proof numbers, announced that she would not seek re-election for her Senate seat in Utah's District 7, where she had represented for the previous 8 years.

On March 28, 2020, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill into law without fanfare.

This new law became effective on May 12, 2020.

Section 76 (as "last amended" by Laws of Utah 2017, Chapter 442) now declares that the anti-bigamy law performs the following. §76-7-101
* reclassifies the crime of bigamy as an infraction;
* classifies inducing involuntary bigamy as a third degree felony;
* modifies the list of crimes that, when committed in conjunction with bigamy, are a second degree felony; and
* makes conforming changes.

The law now contains 5 simple subsections:
(1) defines bigamy,
(2) declares it an infraction,
(3) defines when it rises to a third degree felony,
(4) defines when it rises to a second degree felony, and
(5) provides defenses against prosecution.

In law, "bigamy" refers to each count of "secondary marriage" beyond the one "legal marriage." By still retaining each charge of bigamy as being at least an infraction within the Utah statutes, no conflict exists with the (still hostile) clause of Article III in the Utah State Constitution that declares that "polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited." To address that last extra matter would require a State Constitutional amendment; but, that is not the scope of this current new law.

In the end, Utah has provided a path of process toward removing the tyranny of the felonizing anti-polygamy laws in all other states. It demonstrates - and even now rightly reflects - the truth that National Polygamy Advocate ™ Mark Henkel said in the aforementioned interview with FOX News:

"When you generalize to criminalize, you tyrannize. You cannot associate all polygamy with those that commit crimes. Just as you would not criminalize dieting because of Karen Carpenter; you wouldn't criminalize all teachers because of Mary Kay Letourneau; you wouldn't criminalize all football coaches because of Jerry Sandusky; and the same thing, you cannot criminalize all UCAP, Unrelated Consenting Adult Polygamy, around the country, because of rogue sects and rogue criminals committing actual crimes. Go after the crimes, but polygamy itself is nothing more than a consenting adult relationship."

The 2020s decade begins with this new law paving the de-felonizing path toward de-criminalizing Unrelated Consenting Adult Polygamy nationwide. Grateful to Senator Henderson, UCAP polygamists celebrate this date: May 12, 2020. History has been made.


Bibliographic URLs:

Polygamy would be on par with a traffic ticket under pitch to Utah legislators

Fox News Andrew O'Reilly interviewed Mark Henkel - Sept 2019

Deidre Henderson: Utah’s polygamy law creates a culture of fear and abuse

Utah Senate votes unanimously to decriminalize polygamy

Polygamy bill passes the Utah State Legislature

Sen. Deidre Henderson not seeking re-election

Polygamy is essentially decriminalized in Utah under a bill signed into law

Effective May 12, 2020

S.B. 102 Bigamy Amendments
§76-7-101, as last amended by Laws of Utah 2017, Chapter 442
(1) An individual is guilty of bigamy if: (a) the individual purports to marry another individual; and (b) knows or reasonably should know that one or both of the individuals described in Subsection (1)(a) are legally married to another individual.
(2) An individual who violates Subsection (1) is guilty of an infraction.
(3) An individual is guilty of a third degree felony if the individual induces bigamy: (a) under fraudulent or false pretenses; or (b) by threat or coercion.
(4) An individual is guilty of a second degree felony if the individual: (a) cohabitates with another individual with whom the individual is engaged in bigamy as described in Subsection (1); and (b) in furtherance of the conduct described in Subsection (4)(a), commits a felony offense, or for Subsection (4)(b)(vii), a misdemeanor offense, in violation of one or more of the following: (i) Chapter 5, Part 2, Criminal Homicide; (ii) Chapter 5, Part 3, Kidnapping, Trafficking, and Smuggling; (iii) Chapter 5, Part 4, Sexual Offenses; (iv) Section 76-5-109, child abuse -- child abandonment; (v) Section 76-5-111, abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult; (vi) Section 76-5-209, child abuse homicide; (vii) Section 76-9-702.1, sexual battery; (viii) Section 76-7-201, criminal nonsupport; or (ix) Title 77, Chapter 36, Cohabitatant Abuse Procedures Act.
(5) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (2) that (a) the individual ceased the practice of bigamy as described in Subsection (1) under reasonable fear of coercion or bodily harm; (b) the individual entered the practice of bigamy, as described in Subsection (1), as a minor and ceased the practice of bigamy at any time after the individual entered the practice of bigamy; or (c) law enforcement discovers that the individual practices bigamy, as described in Subsection (1), as a result of the individual's efforts to protect the safety and welfare of another individual.

Karen Carpenter - dieter

Mary Kay Letourneau - teacher

Jerry Sandusky - football coach

National Polygamy Advocate ™

[Reviewed for publication - Review Board.]

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