Reject Holm appeal, Utah urges
Polygamist is trying to get top U.S. court to hear his case
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
Rodney Hans Holm

Rodney Hans Holm

Ruth Stubbs did not want to marry Rodney Holm.

The 16-year-old "just cried" when she was told that she would marry the 32-year-old man and become his third wife. She was told to by then-Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Rulon Jeffs.

In a quick ceremony at Jeffs' home in Hildale, Stubbs exchanged vows with Holm. Warren Jeffs (who is currently the leader of the FLDS Church and is facing criminal charges) presided over the 1998 ceremony and declared the two "legally and lawfully husband and wife."

That description of Stubbs' wedding is part of the Utah attorney general's response to an appeal of Holm's conviction that has been filed with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Holm, a former Hildale police officer who was convicted in 2003 of bigamy and unlawful sex with a minor, is appealing to the top court. He is asking the court to consider whether a ban on plural marriage among consenting adults is outdated, violates his right to freedom of religion and whether polygamists are targeted for prosecution.

"The court hasn't looked at the issue of polygamy for a century," said Rod Parker, Holm's attorney. "They really need to revisit that and give the people some modern guidance."

The Utah Supreme Court upheld Holm's conviction last year.

The U.S. Supreme Court has signaled an interest in hearing the case, asking the Utah Attorney General's Office to file a response. On Friday, the attorney general and an anti-gay marriage group filed briefs with the court, urging it to reject Holm's appeal.

"This case does not involve consenting adults," assistant Utah Attorney General Laura Dupaix said in an interview Friday with the Deseret Morning News. "We really tried to explain to the court why these issues that they presented are not the kind of issues that the Supreme Court should be interested in."

The Utah Attorney General's Office rejected claims that polygamists are being targeted for prosecution because of their religious beliefs.

"We're selecting people for prosecution because they're predators," Dupaix said. "They're taking advantage of underage girls or a spouse who doesn't know about the other spouse."

Holm's claim that Utah's bigamy statute targets religious freedom should not be considered "because it does not raise an issue of widespread national importance," Dupaix wrote in her brief.

There are an estimated 37,000 people who practice polygamy in Utah and surrounding states.

"I think the merits are strong. More importantly, I think the issue deserves attention," Parker said.

Also wading into the polygamy battle is the Family Research Council, a group based in Washington, D.C., that pushes traditional families and traditional marriage.

"The Utah Supreme Court wisely rejected this recipe for social disorder in its decision ... state polygamy bans are an important part of the legislative scheme governing and protecting marriage," wrote lawyers for the conservative Alliance Defense Fund in a friend of the court brief filed Friday.

They objected to Holm's use of the controversial Lawrence vs. Texas case, which decriminalized gay sex among consenting adults. The Family Research Council argues that the Lawrence case does not support a constitutional right to polygamy.

Under an 1879 court decision, polygamy was banned in America. In recent years, prosecutors in Utah and Arizona have come to focus on polygamous groups while investigating abuse, fraud and child-bride marriages.

Jeffs is currently facing charges in Utah and Arizona, accusing him of forcing teenage girls into marriages with older men.

Holm is facing trial in Mohave County, Ariz., where he is accused of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

Originally published Saturday, January 13, 2007