By Bob Unruh
It appears that if polygamy is to be permitted in Montana, it will take a legal battle similar to the path of Obergefell v. Hodges, the case through which the U.S. Supreme Court created “same-sex marriage.”
A court clerk flatly rejected a request for state endorsement of a polygamous arrangement sought by a man, his wife and his live-in girlfriend, whom he reportedly wanted to make wife No. 2.
Only days after the high court’s creation, through a 5-4 opinion, of same-sex marriage, WND reported on a case in Yellowstone County, Montana, in which Nathan Collier asked county officials for a license to marry Christine, even though he remains married to and committed to Victoria.
Collier said the family was seeking “legal legitimacy” and told reporters, “We’re just asking for tolerance.”
Equality is the basis for the argument, he said.
But Kristie Boelter, clerk of district court, explained to WND she can’t change the law.
“With regard to the Collier marriage license request, it is simple. I do not make the law; I follow it,” she told WND in an email.
“I do not have the authority to change the law. Coming to the clerk of court office is futile. If they want the law change[d], they need to contact the state of Montana and their legislatures where Montana laws are made and changed.
“It is a waste of everyone’s time to come to the clerk’s office, because until the law is changed there is nothing that my office can do,” she said.
WND reported earlier that Collier promised a lawsuit if his request was rejected.
The use of arguments for same-sex marriage to support legalization of polygamy had been predicted.
In fact, in the same-sex marriage case, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his dissent the reasoning used by the “five lawyers” in the majority “would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.”
Collier, 46, is a former Mormon who was excommunicated for polygamy.
He told KTVQ he and his two female partners had been hiding their relationship for years but then decided to go public with an appearance on the reality cable show “Sister Wives.” They now want government-stamped legitimacy for their union.
“We just want to add legal legitimacy to an already happy, strong, loving family,” he said to KTVQ.
The three have seven children.
Christine said, according to CBS: “It’s two distinct marriages; it’s two distinct unions, and for us to come together and create family, what’s wrong with that? I don’t understand why it’s looked upon and frowned upon as being obscene.”
Inspired by Obergefell
Collier said he was inspired by the Obergefell case.
While plural marriages are far more common around the globe today and historically, only a handful of nations recognize same-sex marriage. Billions of Muslims live in societies that accept multiple wives and in places like the United Kingdom, where the Muslim population is growing quickly, multiple marriages are becoming almost as common as marriages for two people, and the move is quickly growing in the United States.
The practice would include the many references to multiple spouses throughout the Bible, too.
One legal analyst who was not surprised by the development in Montana was John Eidsmoe, a constitutional expert affiliated with the Foundation for Moral Law.
The foundation was one of the dozens of organizations that filed briefs with the Supreme Court opposing same-sex marriage. It also called on justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Ginsburg to recuse themselves from the case.
Judicial ethics, the group argued, call for a judge to step aside any time there is the appearance of a conflict. In this case, both Kagan and Ginsburg publicly had advocated for same-sex marriage by performing ceremonies while the case was pending before the court.
The court “received” the concern but apparently did not delve into the issue further. If the two had recused, traditional marriage would have been upheld 4-3.
“We predicted way before this decision that if the court was going to justify same-sex marriage, then you have have a hard time refusing group marriage,” Eidsmoe told WND.
Justice Samuel Alito raised the issue at oral arguments.
Eidsmoe said a solution might be for states, one by one, to act through their legislatures to say the court’s opinion “has no application within this state.”
“What we have here is an unauthorized means of procuring an unconstitutional decision to authorize an invalid union to perpetuate immoral activity,” he said.
Others who have warned demands for polygamy based on arguments for same-sex marriage include California Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter.
When his court created same-sex marriage in the state, he said the “bans on incestuous and polygamous marriages are ancient and deeprooted, and, as the majority suggests, they are supported by strong considerations of social policy.”
“Our society abhors such relationships, and the notion that our laws could not forever prohibit them seems preposterous,” Baxter said. “Yet here, the majority overturns, in abrupt fashion, an initiative statute confirming the equally deeprooted assumption that marriage is a union of partners of the opposite sex. The majority does so by relying on its own assessment of contemporary community values, and by inserting in our Constitution an expanded definition of the right to marry that contravenes express statutory law.
“Who can say that, in 10, 15 or 20 years, an activist court might not rely on the majority’s analysis to conclude, on the basis of a perceived evolution in community values, that the laws prohibiting polygamous and incestuous marriages were no longer constitutionally justified?” Baxter wrote.
Elaine Smith, deputy presiding officer in the Scottish Parliament and former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey issued similar warnings.
“Whilst the government has said that it has no intention of allowing polygamous marriages as part of this legislation which changes the essential nature of marriage, it has not explained in any detail and with research analysis its reasons for taking that position,” Smith commented. “Further, if the government is sincere about its support for ‘equal love’ then it appears to have a contradiction on its hands.”
There would be no “logical reason” for not allowing polygamous arrangements if the redefinition of marriage is based only on “love,” she said.
The London Daily Mail reported Carey told Prime Minister David Cameron that an “equal marriage” proposal would have further consequences.
Carey pointed out some British lawmakers were recognizing that if they permit same-sex marriage, there would be no reason to bar two sisters from being married or multiple-partner arrangements.
No more exclusivity
“Once we let go of the exclusivity of a one-man, one-woman relationship with procreation linking the generations, they why stop there?” he said. “If it is about love and commitment, then it is entirely logical to extend marriage to two sisters bringing up children together. If it is merely about love and commitment, then there is nothing illogical about multiple relationships, such as two women and one man.”
After a previous court decision advocating homosexual marriage, pro-polygamy activists rejoiced.
“We polyamorists are grateful to our brothers and sisters for blazing the marriage equality trail,” Anita Wagner Illig told U.S. News and World Report.
The Billings Gazette noted that a federal judge already had struck down parts of Utah’s anti-polygamy law two years ago, “saying the law violated religious freedom by prohibiting cohabitation.”
What about adult-child marriages?
Commentator Cal Thomas reasoned that “if equal protection covers gays, lesbians, transgenders and the rest, what about the polygamists?”
“Some of their groups have already said that after same-sex marriage is approved, they want polygamy,” he asked in an interview with Fox News.
Others will join in as well, he said.
“And even further out, the adult-child marriages, people, men especially, who want to marry young boys or young girls, as occurs in some Muslim countries, by the way, they want their rights, too.
“Who’s going to say ‘no’ and based on what?” he wondered.
Thomas was asked about a recent ad published in the Washington Post and other newspapers in which prominent Christian and Jewish leaders warned they would not join the court in honoring same-sex “marriage.”
The statement by the leaders – who include Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Frank Pavone, Don Wildmon, Jerry Boykin, Alveda King and Alan Keyes – said: “We will be forced to choose between the state and our conscience, which is informed by clear biblical and church doctrine and the natural created order.”
“We will not honor any decision by the Supreme Court which will force us to violate a clear biblical understanding of marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman.”
Thomas said, “I think there’s legitimate concern about this … when you look at countries like England and Canada, which have passed laws under their various human rights acts prohibiting preachers from preaching about homosexuality and some of these other moral and social issues.
“And they can be fined and in some cases, in extreme cases, put in prison,” he said. “Look even during the anti-slavery movement, even the pro-slavery in the south in the United States, the United States government didn’t come in and try to keep pastors from preaching either for or against slavery.
“They let them have freedom of speech. You hear a lot from the left about the separation of church and state. A lot of evangelicals would be happy if the state got back on its side of the line,” he said.