The Utah State Legislature passed on Wednesday the Senate Bill 102 – a bill that seeks to reduce the level of offense for polygamy among consenting adults.
The bill, which seeks to reduce the criminal penalty from a third-degree felony to an infraction, cleared the House on an overwhelming 70-3 vote.
It will now go back to the Senate, where it originated, for a final vote to approve a technical amendment made in the House.
Once approved by the Senate, it will then be in the hands of Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who has not yet confirmed if he will sign the measure into a law.
Under the current law, polygamy is punishable by up to five years in prison.
With this bill, as long it is committed by consenting adults, polygamy will be synonymous to having a traffic ticket.
However, polygamy committed with another crime shall remain as a felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
These offenses include fraudulent bigamy, abuse, domestic violence and human smuggling.
The House committee amended the bill to make it clear that sexual battery in a polygamous household is included in the said offenses, and will be punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.
This amendment is the only reason why the bill is being sent back to the Senate for a final vote.
Republicans Senator Deidre Henderson and Representative Lowry Snow sponsored the Senate Bill 102, and the former said that the intention was not to legalize polygamy.
Her real goal is to decriminalize polygamy so that those from polygamous communities who are victims of other crimes may come forward and ask for help without fear of prosecution.
Representative Snow argued, “That fear of prosecution and losing children remains to the point that even in the face of law violations, they are afraid to come forward and report them.”