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US Bigamy is a felony in Utah. A new bill would change it to an infraction

10:11  12 february  2020
10:11  12 february  2020 Source:   cnn.com

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New legislation introduced in the Senate would change the offense of bigamy , when two people marry while at least one of them is already legally married Bigamy is currently a third-degree felony in Utah , punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a ,000 fine. Making it an infraction would

Her proposal to make bigamy an infraction rather than a felony has gathered significant support. The Utah attorney general has publicly declined to prosecute polygamists like him for years, but the The new proposal would significantly lower the potential penalties for consenting adult polygamists

Kody Brown holding a sign posing for the camera: Kody Brown, left, from the reality show © Rick Bowmer/AP Kody Brown, left, from the reality show "Sister Wives," marches during a protest at the Utah state capitol on February 10, 2017.

A bill proposed in the Utah Legislature could remove the threat of jail time for polygamists.

New legislation introduced in the Senate would change the offense of bigamy, when two people marry while at least one of them is already legally married, from a felony to an infraction.

Bigamy is currently a third-degree felony in Utah, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. Making it an infraction would put it on par with getting a traffic ticket.

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It exempts those who leave bigamous relationships because of fear for their safety or because they are a minor. Passed by one vote. The Dargers, a polygamist family who live in Utah , said on Facebook the new bill is a ''huge step backwards." "This clearly targets plural Mormon families.

A Utah legislative committee advanced a bill that keeps polygamy a felony but offers people leaving a polygamous relationship a chance to avoid prosecution. Bigamy is punishable by up to five years in prison, but the punishment under the bill would be up to 15 years if it 's prosecuted in conjunction with

Polygamy has been practiced in Utah by certain religious groups since before it became a state and continues to persist to this day. Though the practice has long been illegal under state and federal law, the Utah attorney general's office has declined to prosecute the offense of bigamy except when it's committed along with other crimes.

The bill was unanimously approved on Monday by a state Senate committee and will now move to the Senate.

Bill's sponsor says current law enables abuse

Republican state Sen. Deidre Henderson, the bill's lead sponsor, called Utah's current law unenforceable, saying that it doesn't prevent people from engaging in polygamy but instead isolates polygamous communities and prevents from potential victims from reporting abuse.

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Her proposal to make bigamy an infraction rather than a felony has already gathered significant support from her colleagues. SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Polygamists have lived in Utah since before it became a state. Eighty-five years after plural marriage was declared a felony , they still number in

Classifying bigamy , or plural marriage, as a felony crime in Utah created its own chilling effect that made victims of abuses within polygamy afraid to step While it reduces the penalty for bigamy to an infraction , the bill also enhances penalties for bigamy when in concert with other crimes like fraud

"Vigorous enforcement of the law during the mid-twentieth century did not deter the practice of plural marriage," she wrote in an email to CNN.

"Instead, these government actions drove polygamous families underground into a shadow society where the vulnerable make easy prey. Branding all polygamists as felons has facilitated abuse, not eliminated polygamy."

The bill increases penalties for those who commit bigamy under false pretenses, by threat or force or along with other serious crimes, such as child abuse or sexual assault.

"We are basically codifying the long-standing practice of the Utah Attorney General's office: don't prosecute otherwise law-abiding polygamists unless other crimes are being committed," Henderson said.

"The intent of the bill is to eliminate the fear of arrest, imprisonment and having children removed into state custody in order to encourage more reporting, make investigating abuse easier, and lower the high barrier to community integration."

Bill to decriminalize polygamy earns unanimous approval from Utah Senate committee

  Bill to decriminalize polygamy earns unanimous approval from Utah Senate committee Bill to decriminalize polygamy earns unanimous approval from Utah Senate committeeHer father and other adults would talk about being dragged out from under their beds during raids of polygamous communities, she said, fueling an “intense fear of outsiders.

Her proposal to make bigamy an infraction rather than a felony has gathered significant support. The New Mexico House has endorsed a bill that combines penalty enhancements for felonies involving firearms with helping emergency first responders manage stress and funding local law

Her proposal to make bigamy an infraction rather than a felony has gathered significant support. The estimated 30,000 people living in Utah ’s polygamous communities believe plural marriage brings exaltation in heaven — a legacy of the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The bill has received support from the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

Some argue the bill won't protect victims

Some people in Utah's polygamous communities spoke in favor of the bill at a committee hearing on Monday.

Shirlee Draper, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), said she decided to leave the polygamous community when leader Warren Jeffs rose to power.

"But it took me six years to leave because I was swept up with the guilt in the way current statute was written," Draper said.

The FLDS is a religious sect that broke away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, over the practice of polygamy.

But others who had left polygamous communities opposed the bill, arguing that abuse victims would still be afraid to report out of fear from their religious leaders.

"As a child growing up there, I can tell you the only friend I felt like I had was the law," said Ora Barlow, an ex-member of the FLDS church. "When the law did take effect and the leaders were put in prison, I actually felt free. And I know most of my family and my friends and they felt free, from the law having done its job."

Others said the bill would sanction the practice of polygamy, which they argued was inherently oppressive for women.

"To bring it down to an infraction? You're essentially saying this is an OK lifestyle," said Angela Kelly, the director of the Sound Choices Coalition, a non-profit organization opposed to polygamy.

Utah senators unanimously pass bill to decriminalize polygamy .
Currently, polygamy is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson sponsored the bill. It passed Tuesday and now will make its way to the House of Representatives.Polygamy is most often considered to be a relationship between one man and multiple women, whom he claims are his wives. Cases where an arrangement stems from threat or coercion, or occurs under fraudulent pretenses, would remain a third-degree felony. The bill did draw criticism, with some arguing that it wouldn't do enough to protect victims in underage marriages, according to The Associated Press.

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