Utah Government Poised To Decriminalize Polygamy


And we will head to Utah now where they are poised to effectively decriminalize polygamy between consenting adults a bill greatly reducing penalties for polygamy is close to passing the state legislature and the governor has signaled his support Macedonia Hudson from member station KUER in Salt Lake City reports the state has a long and complicated history with the practice the bill marks the charge for consensual polygamy it down from a felony to an infraction essentially the same as a traffic ticket but when polygamy is linked to charges such as child abuse kidnapping would become a second degree felony the bill sponsor Republican senator deter Henderson says prosecutors tell her the current law is difficult to enforce and rarely is she also says it deterrence abuse victims from going to the police when we create a situation where there's a lot of isolation and marginalization in these isolated insular communities that's where a lot of the problems can really escalate polygamy used to be legal before Utah became a state in the eighteen nineties and was openly practiced by members of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints says Lindsey Hansen park with the sandstone education foundation which researches fundamentalist Mormonism as their practice got more notoriety the federal government caramelized it so Mormons had to make a lot of compromises in in eighteen ninety they officially abandoned the practice a lot of people don't realize that the statehood of Utah was dependent on Mormons abandoning the practice of polygamy although the state criminalize it and the church started excommunicating people who practiced at an estimated forty thousand Utahns lived in polygamous families in nineteen ninety eight Hanson park says many of those polygamist communities are not abusive but some are and the leaders use the current law to scare members from reporting abuse they are taught from an early age that if they come forward and they get help that they're putting their not just our entire family in jeopardy but their entire community in jeopardy and so a lot of people don't get help they don't trust outsiders they don't trust the government but some former members say the current law I helped them escape abusive communities like the fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints the leader of that sect is a convicted sex offender and currently serving a life sentence in Texas Henderson's bill has passed the state Senate and house with overwhelming support and heads back to the Senate for final legislative approval the governor has signaled that he'll sign the bill for NPR news I'm Sonya Hopson

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