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Utah Legislature Poised To Pass Bill To Decriminalize Polygamy

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Utah Sen. Deidre Henderson, a Republican from Spanish Fork, is sponsoring a bill to effectively decriminalize polygamy for consenting adults.

A bill decriminalizing consensual polygamy is poised to pass the Utah Legislature. 

The House of Representatives approved the bill 70-3 Wednesday, just over a week after the Utah Senate approved it unanimously. The bill now moves back to the Senate for final approval. 

The bill would knock consensual polygamy down from a felony to an infraction, the equivalent of a traffic ticket. If it’s connected to other charges like child abuse or kidnaping, polygamy would remain a felony. 

Supporters of the bill say it will encourage abuse victims within polygamous communities to report crime. 

“If felony threats were effective at stopping what ... we know has gone on to some extent, it would have worked,” said Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, the bill’s floor sponsor. 

In committee hearings, current and former polygamists have testified both for and against the bill. Some argue that the felony charge scares victims of abuse away from reporting crimes. Others argue that the bill would embolden abusive polygamist leaders and that the current law made them feel heard when they left abusive situations. 

“This infraction as it is practiced currently is linked to a host of serious crimes that are never reported but result in the suffering and marginalization of a significant number of women and children,” said Rep. Kyle Andersen, R-North Ogden, one of three representatives who voted against the bill Wednesday.

Sonja Hutson covers politics for KUER. Follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson

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