In March 2020, polygamy was essentially decriminalized in Utah. Governor Gary Herbert signed Senate Bill 102 into law, which reduced the crime of bigamy from a felony to infraction, putting it on par with a traffic ticket. Previously, "bigamy was a third-degree felony, legally punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine," CNN reported. When combined with crimes like abuse, fraud, or child-bride marriages, it is still considered a felony. However, this opened up many doors for polygamists in the state, including Sister Wives' Kody Brown and his wives Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn.
In Sunday's Sister Wives episode, viewers get to see the Brown family's reaction to the news. After a fearful return to Utah when bigamy was still a felony, the Browns were thrilled to tell their children about what this means for their family. "We have some really fun, exciting news to tell the kids today. I'm just so excited," Robyn explained in a confessional in PEOPLE's exclusive clip. "This is news we've hoped to actually give our kids for 10 years or more," Kody added.
Robyn tells her children that "plural marriage is an infraction, which is like, equal to a traffic ticket, which is basically and essentially decriminalizing plural marriage." Wife Janelle also expresses relief over the news. "We're like, no longer felons for living our religion," she said. "For about 50 years after the Mormon pioneers came to Salt Lake in about 1847, they practiced polygamy — it was part of the religion, it was just a thing that was done. It wasn't weird."
"[In] about 1890, they decided they wanted to try for statehood, so in order to do that, they had to outlaw polygamy, and it's been illegal ever since," Janelle explained. "For 150 years, we've been felons." Meri, who was raised in a polygamist family before marrying Kody, calls polygamy "basic human rights, civil rights. I don't think Kody sharing a bedroom with another adult woman is hurting anybody else." As for Kody, he released a statement to People explaining that he believes this new law will "ultimately lead to the freedom of all plural families everywhere."
This change in polygamy law is hard-earned and way overdue as the polygamist community in Utah has been marginalized for over a century. I feel that this is just the first step to destigmatize plural families," he said in the statement.
"Witnessing the law change last year and knowing it came from legislation is very promising. I hope it will ultimately lead to the freedom of all plural families everywhere. To witness the Utah Legislature make this change gave me both hope and joy, and even a sense of social acceptance," he continued. "It's an indirect victory for so many that worked so hard, but a huge victory still."