Appeals court rules against polygamy suit

Deseret Morning News/September 1, 2007

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a man and two women lack legal standing to bring forward a suit challenging Utah's constitutional ban on polygamy.

In a ruling issued Wednesday evening, the court found that the three lacked legal standing to challenge the denial by the Salt Lake County Clerk's office to given them a second marriage license.

The appeals panel said the couple failed to show a "real and immediate threat" of being prosecuted for their lifestyle and therefore lacked legal standing to challenge the county clerk's decision and Utah's constitutional ban.

G. Lee Cook, D. Cook and J. Bronson say they went to the office of Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen, asking for a marriage license. The trio paid $50 and completed the marriage application form, indicating that G. Lee Cook was already legally married.

After the clerk's office denied them a second marriage license, the three sued. A federal district court judge initially allowed the suit to move forward.

However, in Wednesday's ruling, the 10th Circuit stated the district court judge should have dismissed the suit based on lack of legal standing.

"Plaintiffs argue on appeal that they possess standing to challenge Utah's criminal prohibition of polygamy due to their 'fear of criminal prosecution,' including the stigma of being branded as a law-breaker," the opinion states. However, the judges agreed that no such threat of prosecution is supported.

The appeals court has remanded the case back to the district court with the order to have the suit dismissed.

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