Right wing distorts facts of ruling in Utah polygamy case

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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has expressed concern over a judge's ruling against key parts of Utah's polygamy laws. The governor said his legal counsel would determine the ramifications of the decision.

Herbert said while he had not had a chance to review U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups' ruling, he is "always a little concerned" when public policy changes are made by the courts.

The Republican governor told The Salt Lake Tribune he would "much rather see decisions on social issues" made by the Legislature, but he still needs "to understand the arguments and logic" that went into the ruling.

Waddoups, a nominee of President George W. Bush, said in his decision handed down late last week that a provision in Utah law forbidding cohabitation with another person violated the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of religion.

The ruling was seen as a victory for Kody Brown and his four wives who star in the hit TLC reality show "Sister Wives." The Brown family sued over Utah's bigamy laws in July 2011 and fled Utah for Las Vegas last year under the threat of prosecution.

Polygamy supporters have hailed the judge's ruling. The ruling decriminalizes polygamy, but bigamy - holding marriage licenses with multiple partners - is still illegal, Jonathan Turley, the Browns' Washington, D.C.-based attorney, told The AP.

Meanwhile, right-wing media pundits and religious right leaders have claimed that the ruling is the result of legislative and judicial sanctioning of marriage equality for same-sex couples.

“We have warned of this slippery slope for years,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the far-right Liberty Counsel. “If marriage is deconstructed to include people of the same sex, then there is no logical or legal argument to ban polygamy or polyamory. Same-sex marriage is the abolition of marriage and will destroy the most basic foundation of family and civil society."

The judge's decision, however, did not mention same-sex marriage. The judge did refer to the landmark ruling striking down laws against consensual sodomy.

After the Waddoups ruling, the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came out to reiterate that it abandoned polygamy in 1890 and that it strictly prohibits the practice today for its 15 million members worldwide. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of the Mormon church but has no place in modern Mormonism, church officials said in a statement.