There are an estimated 39000 fundamentalist Mormons in and around Utah who subscribe to a belief system that includes the practice of plural marriage. A bill that effectively "re-criminalizes" polygamy in Utah had a lengthy and emotional hearing, House Bill 99, sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, would make it a crime in Utah for someone to live with multiple people and "purport" to be married. The bill has been passed in the Utah House with 48-25 and the Utah Senate with 15-14.
3 months for the bill passing
Members of Utah's polygamous communities, anti-polygamy activists and even people involved in a reality TV cable show spoke out about the bill. Polygamists object to that saying it gives prosecutors a weapon to go after them, even if they are adults in consenting relationships.
A reality TV crew films part of their show following the hearing on House Bill 99
Rep. Noel said the bill would be used to go after polygamists who commit crimes, describing some groups as operating like a "cartel." He reminded the committee that Utah abandoned the practice of polygamy as a condition of statehood and it was enshrined in the constitution.
"They are hiding behind polygamy to get away with incest, underage marriages, child abuse, spousal abuse," said LuAnn Cooper, an ex-member of the Kingston polygamous family, who testified in support of the bill.
Polygamist Enoch Foster testifies against House Bill 99
Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, filed an amendment to make bigamy a misdemeanor, but enhance the offense if there's evidence of other crimes. Rep. Noel said he opposed that. "I've made some commitments to people to not change the statute," he said without elaborating.