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What an attorney who studies polygamy wants to see in gay marriage rulings

Published June 25, 2013 11:29 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

All eyes are trained on the U.S. Supreme Court this week, but people involved with polygamy are paying a little extra attention.

Lawyer Ken Driggs said Tuesday that he plans to spend Wednesday morning reading the decisions on California's Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. Driggs, an Atlanta-based historian and attorney who has studied polygamy and is currently working on a book about the issue, said he expects the decision will probably have a "peripheral" impact on cases involving plural marriage.

However, he won't know what that impact will be until he reads the decision.

Driggs also mentioned the 2003 landmark case Lawrence vs. Texas, in which the Supreme Court decriminalized sexual activity between consenting adults. Driggs said in light of that case, plural marriage remains illegal because states have effectively "trademarked" marriage as something between one man and one woman, excluding polygamists simply because they chose to use "the m word," or marriage.

"They could celebrate but could be still prosecuted for calling it marriage," he added.

Driggs said he hopes to see polygamy decriminalized between consenting adults and thinks the decisions on gay relationships may impact the so-called trademarking of the terminology surrounding marriage.

Driggs probably isn't the only attorney waiting for a Supreme Court opinion. Five months after the last oral arguments, federal Judge Clark Waddoups has yet to issue a summary judgment in the case of Kody Brown and his family made famous on the television show "Sister Wives." The Brown family is suing to strike down the statute that makes bigamy a third-degree felony in Utah.

It's possible Waddoups is waiting for the Proposition 8 and DOMA decisions before issuing his ruling.

I've left messages for a handful of other attorneys and plan to ask them what impact they think the Prop 8 and DOMA decisions will have on polygamy. I'll update when I get calls back.

Jim Dalrymple II

Twitter: @tribunepolygamy