SALT LAKE CITY -- Reality TV stars Kody Brown and his four wives say they just want one thing: to be left alone.
As authorities investigate them for bigamy, the TLC "Sister Wives" family is asking a federal judge to overturn part of Utah's bigamy law because it bans them from living together and criminalizes sexual relationships between unmarried consenting adults.
"What they are asking for is the right to structure their own lives, their own family, according to their faith and their beliefs," said Jonathan Turley, their attorney, adding that the lawsuit is about privacy – not polygamy.
The case in federal court in Utah, however, could open up the possibility that a way of life for tens of thousands of self-described Mormon fundamentalists could be decriminalized.
While all states outlaw bigamy, some like Utah have laws that both prohibit having more than one marriage license at a time and also ban adults from living together and having a sexual relationship.
The latter provision could include same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and those, like the Browns, who do not have licenses but have created within their homes a marriage-like relationship.
Turley, a noted constitutional expert, argued that, under previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings, such as one that struck down Texas' sodomy law, private intimate relationships between consenting adults are constitutionally protected.
The lawsuit doesn't aim to challenge Utah's right to refuse to recognize plural marriage, nor are the Browns seeking multiple marriage licenses, Turley said. ...
B.C. Supreme Court has upheld Canada's polygamy laws, but says minors who end up in polygamous marriages should be exempt from prosecution.
In a 335-page decision released on Wednesday, Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled in favour of the section of the Criminal Code outlawing polygamous unions.
In his ruling, Bauman said while the law does infringe on religious freedom, it is justified given the harm polygamy causes to children, women and society.
“I have concluded that this case is essentially about harm,” Bauman wrote in the decision that was handed down Wednesday morning in Vancouver.
“More specifically, Parliament’s reasoned apprehension of harm arising out of the practice of polygamy. This includes harm to women, to children, to society and to the institution of monogamous marriage.”
But he suggested the law shouldn’t be used to criminalize minors who find themselves married into polygamous unions.
The decision follows 42 days of legal arguments from a wide variety of groups interested in the constitutionality of Section 293 of the Criminal Code.
B.C. welcomes decision
The ruling was welcomed by B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond in Victoria, who called the decision a "landmark" ruling that sends a clear message upholding the laws. ...
A couple renting the big house behind the bright white fence seemed like excellent tenants, their landlord says. They paid their rent on time. They kept the grass neatly trimmed.
Neighbors watched the pair light tiki torches along the driveway in the evenings. The torches led floods of cars beyond the picket fence onto the property at the end of a dead-end street.
"We are a party family," the property's owner, Sheriff Iguaran, recalled his tenants explaining when they rented the house about a year ago.
"As long as there is no crime activity, I don't have any problem," responded Iguaran, who owns and lives in the house next door.
It wasn't until last week, he said, that he learned his renters at 11326 Brightridge Drive in Seffner hosted what authorities have called an illegal swingers club.
Iguaran said he received a letter from county code enforcement about the alleged business and notified his tenants of the infraction by certified mail.
Authorities stepped in Saturday, arresting tenants Steven Bowers, 56, and Cynthia Bowers, 55, both of St. Petersburg.
They say the Bowers' social activities at the rental house had boomed into an unlicensed sex club business, where swingers partied and singles paid to mingle. Alcohol flowed with a bring-your-own-bottle policy.
Also arrested were Ricky Zabala, 55, and his wife. Pamela Zabala, 54, of Orlando, who authorities say helped operate the swingers club.
All four face charges of operating a sexually oriented business without a license and operating a bottle club without proper zoning and licensing. All four were released from jail Saturday. ...
Proving that you can't keep a good swinger down, the Crucible—a "pansexual alternate lifestyles club" that lost its lease at 1815 Half Street on Buzzard Point in April—has found a new home. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs just issued a building permit for a small warehouse garage flanked by parking lots at 16 M Street NE, a block from the new Harris Teeter and around the corner from existing nightclubs Fur and Ibiza.
I'm not sure at this point what kind of opposition the BDSM fixture might run into. But I do know that they've probably got a good zoning lawyer. Recently, the club says on its homepage, they incorporated as a 501(c)7 non-profit. According to an email from Zoning Administrator Matt LeGrant justifying the award of a permit, non-profit status means it can't be classified as a "sexually oriented business establishment," and is instead a "private club." SOBEs, as they're affectionately called, can't open within within 600 feet of a church, school, library, playground, or the area under the jurisdiction of the Commission of Fine Arts. Plus, they have to get permission from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to operate in a commercial zone, giving neighbors a toehold to stop them (which is why Stadium Club fought the SOBE label tooth and nail). Private clubs, on the other hand, are allowed as a matter of right.
From my perspective, the only thing wrong with private clubs is that they're blank and impermeable to the street during the day—like dance halls, or even Georgetown's City Tavern—and so are not well-suited to aspiring pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods like NoMa. But that block isn't terribly walkable yet, so it wouldn't do any harm in the near term. And when someone buys the parcel for redevelopment, the club will just be displaced again anyway; such is the lot of sex clubs (as most of the old ones down by the ballpark learned years ago).
Still, I suspect that at least some residents will fret that the block is developing a reputation as a "red light district," which the Stadium Club's neighbors tried to claim as well. Thanks to their advance legal legwork, though, the Crucible might be in the clear.
The Crucible comes before Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C on Thursday.
Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives say they shut down a swingers club in a Seffner rental house Friday and arrested four people.
Complaints from neighbors about the home at 11326 Brightridge Drive kicked off a six-week investigation by sheriff's detectives and agents from the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.
Neighbors said cars would turn up their dead-end street on weekend evenings and head directly for the very end, pulling into the 150-foot driveway lit with tiki torches behind the white picket fence and gate.
The unassuming two-story white house has red trim and sits well off a street lined with single-story ranch homes.
Inside, detectives found three bedrooms lined wall to wall with beds.
The living room was equipped with a dancing pole, a spanking table and large-screen televisions playing pornographic movies.
Steven Bowers, 56, and his wife, Cynthia Bowers, 55, both of St. Petersburg were the owners and operators of the swingers club, deputies said.
They were leasing the home. Ricky Zabala, 55, and his wife, Pamela Zabala, 54, of Orlando assisted with the club when the Bowers were away, according to investigators.
All four have been charged with operating a sexually oriented business without a license, a county ordinance violation, and operating a bottle club without proper zoning and licensing, a second-degree misdemeanor. Each charge carries up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. All four were released from jail Saturday. ...
Sex toys, adult entertainment and dozens of people.
That's what investigators say went on inside a Seffner home, which was allegedly used as a illegal swingers club.
Deputies arrested four people, two married couples, in connection to the crime.
On a normal Saturday night., deputies say people would be lining up to go inside a home, at 11326 Brightridge Drive, in Seffner.
They say Steven Bowers and his wife Cynthia were operating a swingers club, while leasing the place and an Orlando couple ran the operation, when the Bowers' needed a night off.
Kristi Vanmeter lives next to the property.
"My dad thought it was something like that. Because the neighbors on the other side, like my dad and them are friends and they were talking like one night, he saw just a bunch of people in the hot tub out there and they're like what's going on?", she said.
Detectives say they found wall-to-wall beds in three bedrooms and a dancing pole, spanking table, and big screen TV's playing pornographic films in the living room.
Owner Sheriff Iguaran happened to show up, while we were there.
He told us he knew about the parties but didn't know about the alleged illegal activity.
But, he says policing the home is not his responsibility. Iguaran said, "As long as I rent it and they are not doing anything against the policy, I don't have any complaint."
According to investigators, as many as 50 people at a time partied at the home. They tell us single people paid a fee, while couples got in for free.
This definition, which has not been updated since 1929, is narrower than the one used by many police departments around the country, and women's rights advocates say it leads to the under-counting of thousands of sexual assaults each year.
At a meeting in Albuquerque, N.M. on Tuesday, the FBI's Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Board voted to change the definition of rape in its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Summary Reporting System, following the recommendation of a lower panel in October. The new terminology says rape is "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."
This new definition expands the old one by taking out the requirement of a "forcible" assault and the restriction that the attack must be toward a woman. It also now includes non-vaginal/penile rape and rape by a blood relative. ...
I was back on the metropolitan staff after two and a half years overseas. The war I had covered in Vietnam had come home, America’s streets the battleground. And among the revolutionaries in the three turbulent years since the Stonewall uprising were the Gay Veterans for Peace, the Gay Activists Alliance and the dwindling Gay Liberation Front, with its provocative echo of the Vietcong’s National Liberation Front.
I was assigned that year to cover what, since Stonewall, had become an annual commemoration, a march from Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village up Avenue of the Americas to Central Park’s Sheep Meadow. I accompanied the thousands of colorfully clad demonstrators as they paraded, chanting, “Out of the closet and into the streets!” Joining them was the renowned Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose child care book I and millions of other baby boomers had been reared on.
Tourists drawn by the spectacle and thrilled to be witnessing an impromptu Gotham ritual hoisted children onto their shoulders and prepared to cheer, only to go ashen-faced as the orientation of the throng became manifest. This was, after all, 1972. ...
... As I hammered out the article on deadline (on a typewriter, naturally), I waffled over one episode.
In the back of the line of march had been a contingent in black leather. I’d been curious and asked who they were.
“We’re the Eulenspiegel Society,” one told me. They took their name from a medieval prankster hanged for his mischief and immortalized in the Richard Strauss tone poem.
Well, he went on, they were a self-help group of sadists and masochists.
And which exactly were they? I asked.
Oh, he told me cheerfully, they were the masochists.