Polygamous Montana trio applies for wedding license

HELENA, Mont. – A Montana man said Wednesday that he was inspired by last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage to apply for a marriage license so that he can legally wed his second wife.

Nathan Collier and his wives, Victoria and Christine, applied at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings on Tuesday in an attempt to legitimize their polygamous marriage. Montana, like all 50 states, outlaws bigamy — holding multiple marriage licenses — but Collier said he plans to sue if the application is denied.

It’s about marriage equality,” Collier told The Associated Press Wednesday. “You can’t have this without polygamy.”

County clerk officials initially denied Collier’s application, then said they would consult with the county attorney’s office before giving him a final answer, Collier said.

Yellowstone County chief civil litigator Kevin Gillen said he is reviewing Montana’s bigamy laws and expected to send a formal response to Collier by next week.

“I think he deserves an answer,” Gillen said, but added his review is finding that “the law simply doesn’t provide for that yet.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday made gay marriages legal nationwide. Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent that people in polygamous relationships could make the same legal argument that not having the opportunity to marry disrespects and subordinates them.

Collier, 46, said that dissent inspired him. He owns a refrigeration business in Billings and married Victoria, 40, in 2000. He and his second wife, Christine, had a religious wedding ceremony in 2007 but did not sign a marriage license to avoid bigamy charges, he said.

Collier said he is a former Mormon who was excommunicated for polygamy and now belongs to no religious organization. He said he and his wives hid their relationship for years but became tired of hiding and went public by appearing on the reality cable television show “Sister Wives.”

The three have seven children of their own and from previous relationships.

“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,” he said.

Collier said he sent an email asking the ACLU of Montana to represent him in a possible lawsuit. ACLU legal director Jim Taylor said he has not seen the request.

Taylor said he has no opinion on Collier’s claims, though the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage “is about something very different.”

Anne Wilde, a co-founder of the polygamy advocacy organization Principle Voices located in Utah, said Collier’s application is the first she’s heard of in the nation, and that most polygamous families in Utah are not seeking the right to have multiple marriage licenses.

“Ninety percent or more of the fundamentalist Mormons don’t want it legalized, they want it decriminalized,” Wilde said.

A federal judge struck down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy law two years ago, saying the law violated religious freedom by prohibiting cohabitation. Bigamy is still illegal.

The state has appealed the ruling, and the case is pending in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Wilde said most polygamous families are satisfied with the judge’s ruling and believe taking it further to include multiple marriage licenses would bring them under the unwanted jurisdiction of the government.

But she said the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage should strengthen their chance of winning the appeal.

“We hope the Supreme Court decision will show the direction the nation is going,” she said. “It’s more liberal, it’s more understanding about people forming the families the way they want.”

Story by Matt Volz, Associated Press

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • 42214 July 1, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Let the games begin.

  • Simone July 1, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    A Mormon is the first person to want to challenge the nations anti-bigamy laws based on the new gay marriage ruling? That’s not surprising at all. Not. At. All. 🙂

    • BIG GUY July 2, 2015 at 5:42 am

      SIMONE, “a former Mormon.” The Mormon church says it excommunicates those in polygamous relationships. Your liberal “bigotry” is on display.

      • Hunter July 2, 2015 at 7:55 am

        Well, let’s be completely honest in this respect. They only excommunicate living people in polygamous relationships. They bind dead people into polygamous marriages every day in temples around the world, and they allow living members (well…male members anyway) to enter into spiritual polygamy with no problem at all.

        • Brian July 2, 2015 at 9:32 am

          While we’re being honest, please recognize that when most of these people got married polygamously they were living outside of the US and there were no laws against polygamy. They left the United States to avoid religious persecution (you know, being hunted down, killed, tarred and feathered, homes burned, businesses destroyed, etc). If the law declared your marriage to be null and void tomorrow, would you suddenly leave your wife and kids to obey? And if they enter “spiritual polygamy”, what business is that of yours? Apparently now people can choose their gender, sexuality, and skin color at will, but “spiritual polygamy” is going too far? Right.

          • Simone July 2, 2015 at 12:54 pm

            Brian, while we’re being honest let’s clarify a little more; Most of those polygamist couples that left the U.S to avoid “religious persecution” did so because most of them didn’t limit themselves to marrying other adults either.

          • eiznem July 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm

            Polygamy was illegal in Canada and Mexico too. Those Mormons didn’t care about following the law.

            Also, the tarring and feathering was because Joseph Smith was hitting on a teenage girl. Lots of the other “persecution” was because the Mormons were taking over and becoming militant themselves. Oh, and Joseph Smith lied about his polygamy.

            Oh, and Mormons in Utah legislature have put together a bill to try to get rid of marriages all together.

          • radioviking July 2, 2015 at 8:02 pm

            Joseph Smith was not only married to more than one girls around 14 years old, BUT also to women who were already married (call it polyamory if you want or polyandry, but most Christians, Muslims, and Jews call it “adultery”).

            Don’t believe me? See it for yourselves: https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng
            The LDS isn’t denying the details anymore- now that information is so accessible via internet. Dang that truth!

            How do you Mormons feel about Joseph Smith now?
            I’m not saying he deserved to be killed, but angry fathers and husbands were not happy with Joseph Smith – he had various legal court cases for sexual deviances – etc.

  • BIG GUY July 2, 2015 at 5:35 am

    SCOTUS rules, love wins. Ed, to be intellectually honest, you must support this.

    • Brian July 2, 2015 at 9:34 am

      The entire left should rally around this man with open arms. Every argument for gay marriage applies directly to this mans polygamous marriage. They’re consenting adults, they love each other, and I’m sure if you ask them they were born this way. But you’re asking a lot of liberals to be intellectually honest and consistent in their application (they weren’t born that way).

      • Simone July 2, 2015 at 12:39 pm

        I do. The government has no business telling adults who they can and cannot live with. I fully support him in his decision to religiously marry multiple people. That said, I do not support him doing it legally for the following reasons:
        1.) Marriage, in the legal sense, is based on a union of TWO adults of any gender. The entire structure of marriage laws is based on that. Let’s just say that the government did permit this marriage. Doing so would require the government to answer a few questions:
        A.) Do we treat the marriage as one marriage or two separate legal entities? If one spouse dies and there is no will, who gets their assets? What if one ends up on life support and the other two disagree on whether or not to “pull the plug”?
        B.) Tax liability. Married couples get a tax benefit. If the government treats the marriage as two separate entities then they essentially give 3 people the same amount as 2 non bigamous couples(4 people). The non bigamous couples could argue that by recognizing this union as two marriages they are discriminating against non-bigamous couples. On the other hand if the government treat it as one marriage then the bigamists could argue that they should get more of a tax benefit because there are more people in the marriage. If that happened non bigamous couples could argue that the government is discriminating against them because they aren’t getting as much of a tax break.
        As you can clearly see allowing a marriage like this to be legalized would create a cluster of legal questions that are not easily answered and would put an undue burden on the American taxpayer. No matter how you play it, short of eliminating legal marriage altogether, neither party will ever be legal equals if bigamy is legalized.
        Prior to last weeks ruling LGBT people in many states were not given the same legal treatment as straight married couples. They were being denied hundreds of benefits already afforded to heterosexual married couples. LGBT people were fighting for the right to get the same benefits as every other legally married couple. Nothing more, nothing less. The difference between this guy and gay people is that he already enjoys those benefits with his legal wife. He isn’t being discriminated against and he has no case.

  • izzymuse July 2, 2015 at 8:36 am

    As long as government is in the business of saying who can or cannot be married they have to be fair to everyone. “Let all the children boogie.” ~ David Bowie

    • Simone July 2, 2015 at 12:46 pm

      They are. The guy in the article is already married.

      • izzymuse July 2, 2015 at 1:47 pm

        SIMONE, you and I agree on A LOT of points concerning government’s proper role in the individual’s life. And I am NOT working to be a defender of polygamy. I simply want to see the government deal fairly and consistently with EVERY individual.etc.

        However, When gays were asking to have the right to marry, the conservatives would mockingly respond the same way you just did to my point: “You can marry. You have the right to marry.” (meaning any man can marry a woman, …vice versa)

        I agree with you when you say government “has no business telling adults who they can and cannot live with. I fully support him in his decision to religiously marry multiple people.” But when you go into legal reasons against polygamy, the reasons seem to based on subjective (not objective, consistent) reasoning:
        1. “Marriage, in the legal sense, is based on a union of TWO adults of any gender.” Based on who? Polygamy has a long history in humanity. It’s not a creation of Mormons. Look at 1.6 BILLION Muslims of the world. Polygamy has been a part of their culture for over a millennia.
        2. Assets and taxes need to reformed *Period!* Many people agree to that. Marital status should have nothing to do with how assets, inheritances, taxes, etc. are dealt with/managed after death.
        I simply don’t think you are being consistent now. Thanks, Izzy

        • Simone July 2, 2015 at 3:11 pm

          IZZYMUSE, Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I was not tying to mock you, but point out fact. I apologize if it came across as mocking you. The guy in the article IS already married. Allow me to clarify my point.
          1.) A gay person could not, prior to last week, legally marry another gay person in all 50 states (last count was 37 I believe). Gay people were saying ” I want to marry the person I choose to marry because I love them and I would like to be able to do things like visit them in the hospital, adopt a child with them or allow them to collect my pension when I die”. They were not saying things like “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…” when asked why they want to get married. They wanted equal rights, not legitimacy.

          Side Note: In my opinion, something is wrong in a relationship if you need a piece of paper to feel like you are in a “legitimate” relationship

          but I digress….

          Conservatives argue that being gay is a choice but refuse to answer when asked when they chose to be straight. The fact of the matter is that they are wrong. Homosexuality is most assuredly NOT a choice. The guy in the article is already legally married and is entitled to all of the legal benefits of said marriage in America. The legal term for what he wants is “Bigamy” and it’s currently illegal in all 50 states. To be clear, if he were gay, I would be making the same argument because they wouldn’t be asking to be treated equally at that point. I believe that he is trying to take unfair advantage of a new law meant to give equal rights to everyone and I do not support him in that.

          2.) I was talking about marriage in America. I understand that Muslims, Mormons , Christians and others have a long and storied history with Polygamy but I am not talking about other cultures, legal systems, nations or societies. I am talking about the legal system in America.

  • Harold S. July 2, 2015 at 9:20 am

    I think they should legalize polygamy and cut off their welfare. Make these men responsible to support their families like everyone else has to do. I get so sick and tired of going to the grocery store and seeing the pligs buying steaks, and all the foods that I can’t afford to buy. They will have four and five shopping carts full of food with four or five wives all with their state welfare cards at the checkout. Then they load all their free food and leave in their fancy Cadillac gas sucking SUV’s all funded by the taxpayers. They call it bleeding the beast!!!! The beast being the government.

    • 42214 July 2, 2015 at 10:26 am

      I agree, polygamy is all about fraud, theft and deception justifeid by “their” deeply held religious beliefs.

    • izzymuse July 2, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      I agree. Millions of tax dollars every year from Utah and Arizona go to feeding all the “spirit wives” (documented as “single mothers” due to no legal marital records).

      I worked construction for ten years while earning a degree at Dixie University. I was on a job site being framed by the Colorado City workers (“plygs”), and heard the polygamous manager explaining how they justify claiming all their “spirit wives” as single mothers and collecting all the food stamp money and welfare – he said, “Well, it’s like Moses and the children of Israel got manna from heaven because they were God’s chosen people. Now we get that because we’re God’s chosen people today.” LOL! Hilarious and insane. They really believe that too.

  • 42214 July 2, 2015 at 9:42 am

    When the “Prophet” Monson gets a revelation instructing him it’s OK not to discriminate against gay marriage under threat of losing tax exempt status will that put an end to this? It worked in ’78 when Kimball got the revelation to stop dicsriminating against blacks under federal threat through the courts. I’m sure there is a big difference here but I don’t see it. In 1896 wasn’t the church forced to denounce polygamy in order to attain statehood? Seems like a long history of coercion. Should be called the church of “Quid Pro Quo”

  • ladybugavenger July 2, 2015 at 10:41 am

    The world is upside down.

  • anybody home July 2, 2015 at 11:20 am

    The pendulum swings both ways. Those who support polygamy should be very very quiet about same-sex marriage. If you want to extend the new law to polygamists, then you have no right to squeal – or shout – about gay marriage.

    • wilbur July 2, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      got it backwards,those who support gay marriage should shut up about polygamy.

    • izzymuse July 2, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      I agree.

    • anybody home July 2, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      Apparently you don’t understand pendulums.

  • fun bag July 2, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    Polygamy is a tool of Satan. You will all be cast down to Hell for your wicked ways you blasted plygs!!!

    • Simone July 2, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Disagree or not, rude comments like that are uncalled for. 🙁

      • fun bag July 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        sometimes the truth is rude

  • 42214 July 2, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Why doesn’t the Montana guy throw in a few sheep, a goat, a minor child, and a first cousin in his marriage plans and we can get this all resolved at once. Then get back to the simple reality that same sex marriage is now legal, period.

  • anybody home July 2, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I say again, what a freakin’ circus…

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