Challenge to Montana’s Anti-Polygamy Laws Overturned by Court
In what could have been a scene right out of ‘Sister Wives’, a U.S. District Judge adopted the findings of a U.S. Magistrate Judge challenging and then upholding Montana’s polygamy laws.
Assistant Attorney General Pat Risken said the case was brought against the State of Montana by the Colliers under the notion that the constitutional recognition that same sex marriage allowed the expansion of that notion into polygamy,” said Risken. “The Colliers took language from the dissenting opinion in the same-sex marriage case (Oberkfell vs Hedges) saying that they should be allowed to take out multiple legally-recognized marriage licenses, and in order to get there they sued in order to get the state of Montana’s bigamy laws declared unconstitutional.”
Risken said the court decided that the Colliers did not have standing because the state was not threatening to impose any sort of prosecution for bigamy, and that they were not in violation of the law.
“The state was not interfering with their ability to cohabitate, but they just chose to pick the fight, and they didn’t really have anything behind it,” he said. “The other driving factor was that this issue, whether states can regulate marriage to prohibit polygamy, has been decided in the United States since 1878 by the United States Supreme Court. That case is still good today, and it’s still followed today.”
Risken said the issue of freedom of religion never really was a factor in the case.
“Nathan Collier was LDS in his youth, but has since denounced it,” he said. “Neither Vickie nor Christine were ever followers of LDS, and admittedly in this case their desire to live in a polygamous legally recognized marriage was not driven by any sincere religious conviction, They just felt that under the same sex marriage case they should be able to do what they want.”
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said the in the state polygamous marriages are illegal, and the court’s decision upholds the definition of marriage as being only between two people.