Bigamy is not a felony anymore — at least in Utah. The bill, which was signed by Gary Herber back in March, took effect on May 12th, essentially allowing two people to marry while one of them remains married to another person.
Until this day bigamy was classified as a third-degree felony under the Utah law, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $50,000 fine. But the new bill, sponsored by Republican state Senator Deidre Henderson makes it merely an infraction. The penalty for it increases only if bigamy is committed under false pretenses or along with other crimes, such as sexual assault or child abuse.
For centuries, Utah has been the home of numerous polygamist religious groups. According to CNN, supporters of the new bill “reducing the penalty for bigamy removes barriers that previously prevented potential abuse victims from coming forward for fear of prosecution.”
But the decriminalization of bigamy has been protested by numerous activists ever since being passed through the Legislature in February. The Sound Choices Coalition, which is opposed to polygamy, released a statement criticizing the bill: “This is abhorrent to us, many polygamist victims and other Utahns who recognize that religious polygamy, as practiced in Utah and around the country, is responsible for many serious human rights violations.”
“Most who are living in these fundamentalist polygamous groups and families, are treated like property, forced to work without pay, traded as daughters, coerced into having unwanted sex, and into giving birth to numerous children they can not care for.”