Suit Challenges Constitutionality of Utah Ban on Polygamy

Suit Challenges Constitutionality of Utah Ban on Polygamy

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A leading civil rights attorney prepared Monday to file a federal lawsuit challenging Utah's ban on polygamy, citing the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a Texas sodomy law.

The suit says Salt Lake County clerks refused a marriage license to plaintiffs G. Lee Cook, an adult male, and J. Bronson, an adult female, because Cook was already married to D. Cook. That woman had given her consent to the additional marriage.

In denying the marriage license, the county violated the plaintiffs' First Amendment right to practice their religion, attorney Brian Barnard says in the suit.

The suit, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, does not mention what faith the plaintiffs observe, except to say polygamy is a "sincere and deeply held religious major tenet."

The suit argues that the Supreme Court ruling last June in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down laws criminalizing gay sex, protects the defendants' privacy in intimate matters.

Polygamy, a felony under Utah law, was a part of the early beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but was abandoned more than a century ago as the territory sought statehood.

The Utah Constitution bans polygamy and the Mormon church now excommunicates those who advocate it, but it is believed that thousands in Utah continue the practice.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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