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"Sister Wives" stars challenge Utah bigamy law

Kody Brown, center, poses with his wives, from left, Janelle, Christine, Meri, and Robyn in a promotional photo for TLC's reality TV show "Sister Wives." AP/TLC

(CBS/AP) SALT LAKE CITY - An attorney for cable television star Kody Brown and his four wives has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Utah bigamy law that makes their family structure illegal.

Washington-based attorney and law professor Jonathan Turley filed the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court.

It seeks a judicial review of the state bigamy law, which makes it illegal for unmarried persons to cohabitate. The third-degree felony is punishable by five years in state prison.

"There are tens of thousands of plural families in Utah and other states," Brown said in a statement released through Turley. "We are one of those families. We only wish to live our private lives according to our beliefs. While we understand that this may be a long struggle in court, it has already been a long struggle for my family and other plural families to end the stereotypes and unfair treatment given consensual polygamy. We are indebted to Professor Turley and his team for their work and dedication. Together we hope to secure equal treatment with other families in the United States."

Turley represents Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn. Brown is only legally married to Meri Brown.

Originally from Lehi, the Browns, who have 16 children, have been featured on the TLC reality show since last fall. They moved out of Utah to Nevada in January after police and Utah County prosecutors launched a bigamy investigation. No charges were ever filed.

The Browns practice polygamy as part of their religious beliefs.

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