SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah – Hundreds of polygamy supporters gathered at the Utah Capitol Monday to protest House Bill 281 that would “recriminalize” the practice. Supporters of the bill feel it should be illegal because of the harm they claim it causes.
The majority protesting were against the bill passing and bigamy laws in general. Enoch Foster, who has two wives, spoke during the rally and believes these types of laws are forcing people into the shadows.
“People are scared to receive services,” said Foster. “They’re scared if they came out and say I’m getting beat up then my whole family is going to get taken away and I’m going to lose my kids.”
His father was arrested back in the 70’s for practicing polygamy. As an abuse councilor he said people should not be coerced into these types of relationships. Foster believes it makes it easier for criminal abusers like Warren Jeffs because people are afraid to come forward.
A small group of about 20 protesters came to voice support for HB 281. Kristyn Decker was in a polygamist marriage since 1982 and didn’t leave until 2002. She believes the practice should remain illegal because she claims people are coerced into the practice from childhood.
“It’s not about choice even though we thought it was,” said Decker. “From the time you’re born from the time you’re indoctrinated you believe that’s what you’re supposed to do, or have to do.”
The bills sponsor said this is supported by the Attorney General who is trying to fix what was ruled unconstitutional. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said it was unlawful because of wording regarding cohabitation.
Rep. Michael Noel (R) said his original bill would only make the charge a misdemeanor, but an amendment on house floor changed it to a third degree felony.
The bill has already passed out of the house and is waiting to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Noel believes it will be passed before the session ends on Thursday.