A judge's ruling that a police officer with three wives and 36 children cannot be fired for his polygamist practices will be appealed, the state attorney general's office said.

The Arizona Law Enforcement Officers Advisory Council, which certifies all law officers in Arizona, voted Thursday to appeal Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph D. Howe's ruling in a case involving Samuel S. Barlow, a Colorado City deputy marshal.The council earlier had revoked Barlow's certification after discovering his multiple marriages.

Barlow appealed the action in Maricopa County Superior Court, leading to Howe's ruling.

The judge said that although polygamy is prohibited by the Arizona Constitution, it is not illegal because the Legislature has never passed a law providing a penalty.

The council also failed to show a compelling state interest great enough to override Barlow's First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, Howe said.

William S. Jameson Jr., an assistant attorney general, said Friday that the advisory council's vote gives him the authority to appeal the case to the Arizona Court of Appeals.

He said that he will argue that Barlow violated his oath as a police officer to uphold the Arizona Constitution, which specifically prohibits polygamy.

Jameson said he does not know when the appeal will be filed, but he said the process is likely to be lengthy.

Barlow was certified in 1972 as a member of the Mohave County Sheriff's Department, according to the advisory council's records. In 1985, he joined the marshal's office in Colorado City, a polygamist community north of the Grand Canyon.