'Sister Wives' polygamists use SCOTUS gay marriage ruling in federal lawsuit to ask for legalization of ménage à trois

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Nathan Collier/Facebook)Nathan Collier and his two "wives" are suing the State of Montana, asking for relief from the "great and continuing harm" and "disrespect" they suffer because Nathan's marriage to only one of the women is considered legal. Collier has been married to Vicki since 2000, and "spiritually married" to Christine since 2007.

BILLINGS, Mont. (Christian Examiner) – A Montana man and his two "wives" have filed suit in federal district court, seeking to have their polygamist marriage legalized under the ruling issued by the Supreme Court in the Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage case.

(Wikimedia/Public Domain)Vintage Postcard Circa 1910 "This is the Life"

In its June decision, the high court ruled 5-4 that marriage could not be limited to heterosexual couples only and said states – many of which had constitutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage – were required to recognize same-sex marriages.

Now, Nathan Collier, his legal wife, Vicki, and another women, Christine Parkinson, are claiming that ruling opens up a legal path for Christine also to marry Nathan. In the suit, the women argue they do not wish to be married to each other, but both want to be married to the same man.

Shortly after the Obergefell decision, Nathan and Christine attempted to obtain a marriage license at the Yellowstone County Courthouse. Nathan had been married to Vicki since 2000, and Christine was "spiritually married" to Nathan in 2007. The trio was turned away.

In the lawsuit, the three claim they "and, by extension, thousands of non-traditional families throughout the State of Montana and the United States, are demeaned and disgraced by society because they 'are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many [monogamous] couples would find intolerable.'"

According to the lawsuit, the inability for Nathan Collier to take a second wife "works a great and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate" his family. The suit also claims Montana's bigamy law criminalizes the love, protection and financial provision offered by Nathan Collier for both women.

The Colliers were profiled on the TLC reality show, "Sister Wives," in January 2015, so they are not concerned with hiding their relationship. They have not been prosecuted for their relationship because Nathan's second marriage is not legally recognized.

The challenge Collier and his two "wives" offer to longstanding state laws prohibiting bigamy was predicted by Justice Samuel Alito during the oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Alito asked Mary Bonauto, the attorney representing proponents of same-sex marriage, if polygamy could be a logical outcome of extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. Bonauto said then that multiple marriages often involve "concerns about consent and coercion" that should result in the state being able to prevent them. She also said there were concerns about the division of property and the disposition of children in the household should a divorce occur in a polygamous marriage.

The Colliers and Parkinson specifically address those concerns in their lawsuit, claiming their relationship is consensual and that they are not arguing for non-consensual bigamy laws to be overturned.

The suit relies on Supreme Court precedent in Lawrence v. Texas (which overturned the ban on sodomy) and Obergefell (which legalized same-sex marriage). It also claims state laws prohibiting Nathan Collier from marrying Christine violate their First Amendment rights to exercise their religion as they wish.