A married Montana man plans to sue the state for the right to wed a second woman.
Nathan Collier traveled to the Yellowstone County Courthouse on Tuesday to legitimize his union with two wives, Victoria and Christine. The county clerk denied his request, but said she will consult with the county’s chief civil litigator and give Collier a final decision by next week.
All 50 states now outlaw multiple marriage licenses. But U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, in his dissenting opinion on Obergefell v. Hodges, said the same-sex-marriage arguments used in that case could apply equal force to plural marriage.
Collier, inspired by Obergefell, claims he is fighting for marriage equality. No equality without polygamy: “My second wife Christine, who I’m not legally married to, she’s put up with my crap for a lot of years. She deserves legitimacy.”
Indiana-based academic Fredrik deBoer wrote last Friday on Politico about the slippery slope the Supreme Court decision initiated. He noted a decade ago the argument against polygamy at least made some sense, but after last week’s ruling it no longer does: “Many progressives would recognize, when pushed in this way, that the case against polygamy is incredibly flimsy.”
Collier, a former Mormon, agrees with this logic. He married his first wife, Victoria, in 2000, and has lived with second partner Christine since 2007. Mormons excommunicated him for his polygamous lifestyle. The threesome thus are not receiving the government-designated “dignity” that Justice Anthony Kennedy said is everyone’s due.
“These cases involve only the rights of two consenting adults whose marriages would pose no risk of harm to themselves or third parties,” Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion.
Although many think the same-sex marriage decision opened the door for polygamy, Brookings Institution senior fellow Jonathan Rauch noted the United States banned multi-person unions based on a rational litmus test: “There is ample evidence that polygamy has many severe consequences for third parties and for society as a whole.” He pointed to higher levels of rape, kidnapping, assault, and murder in polygamous cultures.
— by Evan Wilt