A Billings, Montana, polygamist is threatening to file a lawsuit after being denied a marriage license for his second wife after same-sex marriage was legalized.
Nathan Collier, 46, said Wednesday that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide inspired him to try to expand the definition of marriage to polygamy, according to the Associated Press.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Applied for a Second Marriage License on Tuesday
Collier and his wives Victoria and Christine visited the Yellowstone County Courthouse on Tuesday in an attempt to legalize their polygamous marriage. Bigamy, or the holding of more than one marriage license, is illegal in Montana and all 50 states. There are penitential consequences for bigamy in the state. Montana State Law states:
(1) A person commits the offense of bigamy if, while married, the person knowingly contracts or purports to contract another marriage unless at the time of the subsequent marriage.
(2) A person convicted of bigamy shall be fined not to exceed $500 or be imprisoned in the county jail for any term not to exceed 6 months, or both.
The county clerk denied Collier’s marriage license request but told Collier that they would investigate his claims.
2. Montana’s Chief Civil Litigator Is Reviewing the Case
Yellowstone County chief civil litigator Kevin Gillen told the Associated Press that he was reviewing Montana’s bigamy laws, stating: “I think he deserves an answer…[but] the law simply doesn’t provide for that yet.”
Gillen told Collier that he would have an answer for him by next week. According to Collier, he has also contacted the ACLU to ask for legal representation but ACLU legal director Jim Taylor has stated that he has received no such request yet.
3. He’s Already Legally Married to Victoria
Collier is already legally married to his first wife, Victoria. They married in 2000. He then married his second wife, Christine, in 2007 but only in a religious ceremony to avoid bigamy charges.
Collier is a former Mormon who was excommunicated from the church for his belief in polygamy. Between him and his two wives they have seven children from their unions and previous marriages.
4. They Appeared on TLC’s ‘Sister Wives’
Collier and his wives had previously appeared on TLC’s hit show about a polygamous family Sister Wives.
They were also recently featured on a segment by local new-station KTVQ. You can watch that interview above.
“We just want to add legal legitimacy to an already happy, strong, loving family,” Collier told the news station.
5. Collier Says the Gay Marriage Ruling Strengthened Him
Collier told the Associated Press: “It’s about marriage equality… You can’t have [gay marriage] without polygamy.”
Same sex marriage became legal nationwide on June 27, in a narrow Supreme Court ruling of 5-4. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, cited the 14th Amendment as the basis for legalizing same sex marriage. You can read more about the ruling and the 14th Amendment here.