- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah state representatives have approved a proposal designed to revive the state’s ban on polygamy in a way that state attorneys believe would end a lawsuit filed by the family from the reality show “Sister Wives.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, said the measure is designed to slightly narrow the definition of the crime by saying the individuals must be living with more than one purported spouse. The plan will now move on to a debate in the Senate.

The vote on Wednesday came in the wake of a judge’s decision that struck down the state’s law banning polygamy.

Noel said his proposal would halt the lawsuit now before a federal appeals court because it changes the definition of the crime.

Lawmakers on Wednesday rejected a push to make polygamy a misdemeanor rather than a felony, something that advocates say would help the secretive communities come out of the shadows and report crimes such as underage marriage.

Rep. Earl Tanner, R-West Jordan, said polygamy has been a felony in Utah for decades and that has only made these communities function like crime families. “If we do the same thing that we’ve always been doing, things are not going to change,” he said.

Noel pointed out that the Utah constitution forbids polygamy, which was a requirement for it to become a state in 1896.

The belief that polygamy brings exaltation in heaven is a legacy of the early Mormon church. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibits it today.

There are still about 30,000 people who live in polygamous communities in Utah.

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