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The Browns’ attorney, Washington, D.C., constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, argued Brown and his wives _ Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn _ remain victims and continue to live under the stigma of being considered felons.

They fled Utah last year and are now living in Nevada.

Turley also questioned both the state and county policies, noting neither is legally binding.

“It does not guarantee that the Browns or anyone else won’t be prosecuted,” Turley said Wednesday, adding that the policies are “clearly an effort to evade a ruling in this case.”

The judge said he would decide later whether to allow the case to continue.

Turley argues that under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, such as one that struck down Texas’ sodomy law, private intimate relationships between consenting adults are constitutionally protected.

While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that not only prohibit citizens from having more than one marriage license, but also make it illegal to even purport to be married to multiple partners. Utah’s bigamy statute even bans unmarried adult couples from living together and having a sexual relationship.

The Brown’s lawsuit doesn’t aim to challenge Utah’s right to refuse recognition of multiple licenses, nor are the Browns seeking them, Turley said.

Utah’s statehood was granted in the 1890s under the condition that plural marriage _ which was then openly practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints _ would be banned in the state constitution.

The practice has been illegal under federal law in the U.S. since the 1860s.

The Browns are members of the Apostolic United Brethren and say they practice polygamy as part of their religious beliefs.

And like most polygamists, Brown only has a valid marriage license with his first wife, Meri. He married the other three in religious ceremonies. They consider themselves “spiritually married.”

Fewer than a dozen Utah cases have challenged the law _ none successfully. It has most commonly been used to prosecute polygamists typically when the defendants were also charged with other crimes, such as child abuse. The criminal investigation into Warren Jeffs, for instance, and his polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints group, began as a probe into child sex abuse allegations.

He is now serving a life sentence in Texas after convictions on child sex and bigamy charges.

Some experts liken the issue to gay marriage or sodomy bans, but note neither carries the historical stigma that comes with polygamy.

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