Montana reality show star plans lawsuit to force state to recognize polygamy
A self-styled Montana polygamist who was featured on the reality television show “Sister Wives” said on Thursday he will sue the state if it denies him the right to legally wed his second wife.
Nathan Collier, 46, said his bid to make his marriage to his second wife “legitimate” was influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court decision last week that legalized same-sex marriages in the United States.
Collier, his lawful wife and a woman he said he married in a “spiritual” ceremony earlier this week sought a license from officials in Billings to legalize their plural marriage.
Bigamy and polygamy are illegal under both federal and Montana state law.
Collier said the request took Yellowstone County officials by surprise. After “a lot of hesitancy and stuttering,” they told him the request would need vetting by the county attorney.
Neither the county clerk’s nor the attorney’s office responded to several requests for comment on Thursday.
Collier, whose domestic arrangements were featured earlier this year on the TLC reality series “Sister Wives,” said grounds for his lawsuit would be pegged to the dissenting decision in last week’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban same-sex unions.
In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “If not having the opportunity to marry ‘serves to disrespect and subordinate’ gay and lesbian couples, why wouldn’t the same ‘imposition of this disability’ … serve to disrespect and subordinate people who find fulfillment in polyamorous relationships?”
Collier, who owns a refrigeration firm in Billings, was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for committing polygamy, which the Mormon faith banned in 1890 in order for Utah to gain statehood.
Under Montana law, a person can be accused of the misdemeanor crime of bigamy if, while married, “the person knowingly contracts or purports to contract another marriage.” Montana also makes it a misdemeanor crime to marry a bigamist if it’s known that person is already lawfully wed.
Watch this video report posted online by KRTV-TV:
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Paul Tait)