August 29, 2014
Utah polygamy law upended by federal judge
Art Toalston
Posted on Dec 14, 2013

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SALT LAKE CITY (BP) -- U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups declared key parts of Utah's polygamy law unconstitutional on Friday (Dec. 13) in a case involving the Brown family from TLC's reality show, "Sister Wives."

The decision by Waddoups, as described by the Salt Lake Tribune, holds that "key parts of Utah’s polygamy laws are unconstitutional." The 91-page ruling "sets a new legal precedent in Utah, effectively decriminalizing polygamy," the newspaper stated.

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, reacted to the ruling in an email distribution to the media today (Dec. 14).

"This is what happens when marriage becomes about the emotional and sexual wants of adults, divorced from the needs of children for a mother and a father committed to each other for life," Moore said. "Polygamy was outlawed in this country because it was demonstrated, again and again, to hurt women and children. Sadly, when marriage is elastic enough to mean anything, in due time it comes to mean nothing.

"The loss of a marriage consensus is about more than just social policy," Moore noted. "Marriage is an embedded picture of the Gospel, the union between Christ and His church. That's why Jesus pointed back to the beginning, to God's creational purposes. We must talk about these issues not simply from the point of view of nature, but from the point of view of the Gospel.

"When reality TV scenarios drive our judicial decisions, we've truly reached a strange time in American life," Moore said. "But the Gospel was given in strange times, and remains the power of God to salvation, calling us to repent of our self-made attempts at autonomy and back to God's purposes."

State officials, as of midday Saturday, had not indicated whether Utah will appeal Waddoups' ruling.

Waddoups, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, was a nominee of President George W. Bush in 2008. Waddoups holds a law degree from the University of Utah's law school and an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University.

The text of Waddoups' ruling can be accessed at
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook ( ) and in your email (

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