The Legal Status of Polygamy in the U.S.: Unveiling the Truth

A happy man with his happy wives


The polygamist lifestyle has garnered attention through television shows and raised questions about its legal standing in the United States. Is polygamy legal in the U.S.? What are the reasons behind its outlawing, and could the legal restrictions change in the future? In this article, we will explore the current state of polygamy’s legality in the U.S., the challenges it poses, and recent developments that hint at potential shifts in the legal landscape.

Current Legal Status:

At present, polygamy is outlawed in all 50 states of the U.S. Federal law criminalizes being married to more than one individual. However, enforcing such laws is often challenging due to polygamists actively avoiding scrutiny and staying under the radar. Moreover, as society evolves and embraces diverse living arrangements, these laws become increasingly problematic.

Shifting Legal Paradigms:

In recent times, laws founded on moral grounds have faced growing challenges in the courts. Similar arguments have successfully led to the decriminalization of same-sex marriages and homosexuality. Many perceive the continued criminalization of polygamy as a remnant of outdated practices and an intrusion into personal privacy, thus potentially violating individuals’ 14th and 1st Amendment rights.

Anti-Bigamy Laws in Utah:

Notably, Utah, a state historically associated with polygamy, has seen some legal developments. A federal judge ruled that the anti-bigamy law in Utah was unenforceable due to its vagueness. Critics argue that such laws infringe upon personal privacy rights and are incompatible with modern constitutional principles. However, it is important to note that despite a bill passed in February 2020 decriminalizing polygamy in Utah, the bigamy law was reinstated by a federal appeals court, and the state legislature passed a law re-criminalizing bigamy. Presently, Utah views polygamy as an “infraction,” similar to a speeding ticket. The future legal status of polygamy in Utah and other states remains uncertain.

Looking Ahead:

In summary, polygamy is currently not legally recognized in any of the 50 states. Although enforcement of anti-polygamy laws is infrequent, polygamists cannot assume absolute immunity from prosecution. The positive news for polygamists is that there is potential for legal change soon, with laws possibly being relaxed or reevaluated. However, the extent and timing of these changes are uncertain.


Polygamy’s legal status in the United States is currently defined by its outlawing across all 50 states. However, challenges to these laws are emerging, as society becomes more inclusive and diverse living arrangements gain acceptance. Recent developments in Utah indicate the potential for future shifts in polygamy’s legal treatment, although the precise outcome remains uncertain. As legal landscapes evolve, it is essential to stay informed about the changing dynamics surrounding polygamy in the United States.


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