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Federal Appeals Court Overturns Ruling Decriminalizing Polygamy in Utah

FILE - Jonathan Turley, attorney for Kody Brown and his four wives, the stars of the reality show "Sister Wives," leaves the Frank E. Moss United States Courthouse, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 17, 2013.

A U.S. federal appeals court has dismissed a landmark decision by a district court decriminalizing polygamy in the state of Utah.

The case was brought by Kody Brown and his four wives who star on the reality TV show “Sister Wives.”

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Brown and his wives cannot sue the state since they no longer face the threat of prosecution under the law. Prosecutors in Utah have a new policy of not charging consenting adults with multiple wives.

In a 2013 ruling, a district court judge found that the threat of prosecution drove the Brown family out of Utah and that key parts of Utah's bigamy law violated their right to privacy and religious freedom. He declared the law in part unconstitutional.

A local prosecutor in Utah had opened an investigation after the family appeared on the show.

The federal court in its ruling said the prosecutor involved had issued a new policy limiting prosecutors to cases of deception or those that involve polygamy and some other crime.

Polygamy is relatively rare in the U.S. and mainly associated with the Mormon population, even though the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially banned the practice in 1890.

There are about 30,000 polygamists in Utah, according to court documents.