BILLINGS, Mont. (Christian Examiner) – Religious conservatives argued same-sex marriage would open the flood gates to other types of marriage in the United States, and now it appears the coming torrent is beginning to flow.
A Montana man filed an application June 30 for a second marriage license to add another wife to his family, Montana CBS television news affiliate KRTV has reported.
Nathan Collier, already legally wed to Vicki Collier since 2000, filed for the marriage license at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in order to marry Christine. All three have been involved in the polygamous relationship since 2007, but Nathan said he wanted to make his marriage to Christine just as legal as his marriage to Vicki.
According to the Collier, who lives in Lockwood, Montana, public recognition of the marriage will "add legal legitimacy to an already happy, strong, loving family."
All we want is legal legitimacy. We aren't asking anybody for anything else. We just want to give our marriage and our family the legitimacy that it deserves.
In the news report, Christine said the couple marked "not applicable" on the marriage application where they were supposed to note the date their last marriage was dissolved.
Clerks at the county courthouse were both incredulous and unsure how to proceed, the news report said.
They eventually denied the license, but Nathan Collier pledged to press the issue since the Supreme Court had granted marriage equality to same-sex couples.
"All we want is legal legitimacy. We aren't asking anybody for anything else. We just want to give our marriage and our family the legitimacy that it deserves," Nathan told KRTV.
"It's two distinct marriages; it's two distinct unions, and for us to come together and create family, what's wrong with that?" Christine asked. "I don't understand why it's looked upon and frowned upon as being obscene."
The Colliers were profiled on the TLC reality show, "Sister Wives," in January 2015, so they are not concerned with hiding their relationship – considered illegal under Montana law.
Marrying a second person while legally married to another is punishable by a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. The second spouse may also be fined and imprisoned for marrying a known bigamist.
The Montana Attorney General's Office declined a request for comment, but pointed to two sections of state law which forbid bigamy.
According to the Washington Times, Yellowstone County's chief civil litigator Kevin Gillen told reporters he is also reviewing the state's bigamy laws and expects to send a formal response to Nathan Collier by next week. It is unlikely, however, that any ruling will go in his favor, Gillen said.
"The law simply doesn't provide for that yet," Gillen told reporters at the courthouse.
During the oral arguments for Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Samuel Alito asked Mary Bonauto, the attorney representing those favoring 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.
Alito seemed unconvinced as did Justice Antonin Scalia, who told Bonauto, "Well, I didn't understand your answer."
In 2011, the regular stars of "Sister Wives," Kody Brown and his four wives (one legal and three "spiritual"), sued the state of Utah to overturn its ban on polygamy. U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups said in his ruling that the law only prohibited an individual holding multiple marriage licenses, and could not prohibit the cohabitation of Brown and his multiple "wives," all of who were over the age of consent.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes appealed that decision, arguing that cohabitation with multiple women considered "wives" is illegal under a Supreme Court ruling from 1879 and a ruling from the 10th Circuit Court in 1985.