While photographer Trent Nelson and I were down in Short Creek last week, we reached out to members of the Centennial Park community. We were hoping to talk to them about their reaction to the recent ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups that effectively decriminalized polygamy, but it was a short trip and our schedules never lined up to talk.
However, this week the Centennial Park group sent me this written statement, which represents a few different polygamous communities:
As representatives (in part) of Fundamentalist Mormon families and communities, we express our gratitude to Judge Clark Waddoups of the Federal District Court for striking the cohabitation prong of Utah’s bigamy statute on Friday, December 13th, 2013.
For over 130 years, various state and federal statutes have targeted our deeply-held religious beliefs and family arrangements. These statutes were enforced arbitrarily and, by their vague and overbroad definitions, they brought fear into the lives of many families, prompting thousands to seek isolation rather than face selective prosecution. As Judge Waddoups observed in this case, convictions for unlawful cohabitation appear to have focused solely on Fundamentalist Mormons who were legally married to just one spouse.
In his ruling, Judge Waddoups makes generous reference to the opinion published by Utah Supreme Court Justice, Christine Durham, in her dissent in the Rodney Holm bigamy case. Both Durham and Waddoups insist that, in light of a chain of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the singling out of a religious minority for disfavorable treatment (merely on the basis of its “religious cohabitation” lifestyle) is a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, and an attack on at least six key Constitutional protections. We are especially pleased that the 91-page decision exposes the racism and imperialism which permeated the Supreme Court’s 1879 Reynolds decision. We agree with Judge Waddoups that it is time for Reynolds to join other defunct rulings such as Davis v. Beason and Bowers v. Hardwick, all of which deprived people of rights.
We are indebted to Kody Brown and his four wives for risking harm to their family to challenge this oppressive and virtually unenforceable statute. We thank Professor Jonathan Turley for his hard work and dedication to this cause. We thank the many other attorneys who have worked tirelessly and selflessly over two decades to lay the groundwork for this victory.
We are grateful to our many unnamed supporters who jeopardized their careers and livelihoods to defend us and speak the truth when the truth was not welcome. We pay tribute to our many faithful ancestors who spent time behind bars for their religion and saw their families torn apart because of political agendas.
The impact of this decision is both immediate and yet to be realized. As a coalition, we will continue to seek broader acceptance through education and service, building bridges between a maligned culture and the rest of society. We remain committed to the right of all families to exist.
We trust that this momentous ruling will stand, and that our families can now step out of the shadows and into full citizenship.
The Principle Rights Coalition including representatives of:
Apostolic United Brethren
Davis County Cooperative
Independent Fundamentalist Mormons
— Jim Dalrymple II