SB 102: Addressing Utah’s Unique Human Rights Crisis
This bill passed the senate unanimously, and passed the house with a vote of 73-3.
For several decades, Utah law has classified polygamists as felons. This broad targeting of an entire community and religious lifestyle has enabled certain abusers such as Warren Jeffs to weaponize the law and oppress those who fear reporting to law enforcement and integrating into society.
Being branded as a felon scares many polygamists because of their history being persecuted—and prosecuted—by the state. Raids, incarceration, and forcible removal of children are a real fear for many, so abuse is often swept under the rug rather than inviting law enforcement to open an investigation that might lead to a repeat of past altercations with the government.
Following dozens of meetings and conversations with current and former polygamists, and stakeholders including prosecutors, law enforcement social workers, and more, Senator Deidre Henderson is sponsoring Senate Bill 102 to lower the criminal penalty for polygamy. Doing so will reduce the weaponization of Utah law and prevent future would-be abusers from scaring victims into submission. It will help address this human rights crisis in our state.
SB 102 also creates a new crime for those who threaten or coerce another individual into a bigamous relationship. The bill also preserves existing penalties for those who practice polygamy and who commit certain kinds of abuse.