Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

July 4, 2015

Montana trio seeks polygamy license; "inspired by Roberts"

Victoria, Nathan, and Christine Collier
An ex-Mormon man and two women, living as a polygamous family in Montana, aim to test America's anti-polygamy laws following the Supreme Court's gay-marriage decision. Nathan Collier says he and his second wife Christine were inspired to seek a marriage license by Chief Justice John Roberts' warning that the court's gay-marriage ruling opens the way to legal multiple marriage.

First, here's a local TV report from KTVQ in Billings, Montana:

From the accompanying text (June 30, 2015):

Lockwood polygamist family seeks right to marriage

...We first told you about the Colliers in January when the polygamist family appeared on an episode of the TLC show "Sister Wives."

46-year-old Nathan Collier and his two wives, Vicki and Christine, said Tuesday that they are simply looking for equality.

Nathan is legally married to Vicki, but is looking to also legally wed Christine. The family has a total of seven children, all from previous relationships....

"We just want to add legal legitimacy to an already happy, strong, loving family," said Nathan.

..."It's two distinct marriages, it's two distinct unions, and for us to come together and create family, what's wrong with that?" said Christine. "I don't understand why it's looked upon and frowned upon as being obscene."

The couple's goal is to have their story heard. The Colliers say if the state of Montana could only recognize their marriage as legal, it could be the catalyst for other states to follow suit.

"All we want is legal legitimacy. We aren't asking anybody for anything else. We just want to give our marriage and our family the legitimacy that it deserves," said Nathan.

Nathan Collier describes himself on Facebook as “an American, conservative, Constitutionalist, capitalist, (formerly) Christian, heterosexual middle aged white male of Southern heritage.”

From an Associated Press story:

Polygamous Montana trio applies for wedding license

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....

...Collier, 46, 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."

...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. [Utah] 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....

Read the whole story (July 1).


● The Colliers are getting lots of attention from slippery-slope conservatives saying "we told you so!" At Real Clear Politics, Steve Chapman says their scenario is not farfetched:

From Gay Marriage to Polygamy?

If you're one of those rare people who think one spouse is not enough, your prayers may be answered. After the Supreme Court decision in favor of gay marriage, conservative critics spotted sister wives on the horizon. "Polygamy, here we come!" tweeted Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.

...The case for legalizing polygamy builds on the case for legalizing same-sex marriage. The sexual arrangements may offend some people, but they're not a crime. If they aren't done under legal arrangements, they'll be done without them.

Conservatives raise the specter of polygamy as though its evils are beyond doubt. But much of their opposition stems from religious objections, appeals to tradition or disgust with sexual tastes they do not share.

Those grounds were not enough to justify banning same-sex marriage — and in the long run, they are not enough to justify banning polygamy. If conservatives want to make sure plural marriage never comes to pass, they need better reasons.

Some plausible defenses have been heard. One is that [patriarch-centered] polygamous weddings, unlike gay ones, actually harm other people — by reducing the stock of potential [female] mates, dooming some [men] to singlehood. Another is that polygamy is associated with sexual abuse of minors.

Note that such rationales don't apply to today's secular, gender-equal polyamorists.

It may also be argued that polygamists, unlike gays, don't warrant constitutional protection because they haven't suffered relentless mistreatment.

Those arguments may be enough to keep the Supreme Court from concluding that the Constitution protects polygamy. But they aren't very convincing as arguments for banning it.

Plural marriage would decrease the supply of marriage partners — but so do informal polygamous arrangements, which take multiple people out of the dating pool.

Besides, no one is entitled to a preferred quota of possible spouses....

The abuses often seen in polygamist outposts are real, but they are more likely to flourish when Big Love can be practiced only in secret, and they can be prosecuted on their own. We don't outlaw traditional marriage because Ray Rice slugged his wife.

...None of these rationales, of course, is likely to convince the court to grant a freedom that few people want and that would produce far more complications than same-sex unions. Public opinion affects the justices, and there is no groundswell of support for plural marriage.

But maybe that's because we haven't given it much thought. Conservatives raise it in the context of same-sex marriage to create fear. They should be careful. If people bother to look at polygamy, they may find it's not so scary

The whole article (July 2).


● On the other hand, Washington Post political columnist Hunter Schwarz says it ain't gonna happen:

Support for polygamy is rising. But it’s not the new gay marriage.

...While support for polygamy is rising, it has a ways to go before it catches up with same-sex marriage, and there are plenty of reasons it's unlikely to catch on in anywhere near the same way.

For now, it's illegal nationwide, recent legal attempt to overturn bans have been unsuccessful, and public support is low. But that support is increasing.

According to data from Gallup, support has increased from 5 percent in 2006 to 16 percent today. The biggest one-year jump happened in 2011, after TLC's "Sister Wives," about a polygamist family who lived in Utah and later Nevada (the Colliers also have appeared on the show), first aired.

Washington Post

Some polygamists have become champions of same-sex marriage because they see it as as opening for them, even if it often goes against their personal religious beliefs. They've also taken cues from how opinions about same-sex marriage evolved. Getting on TV and showing people how normal you are is an important component of that.

...But polygamists will always be at a disadvantage compared to the LGBT community. The No. 1 reason people who once opposed same-sex marriage changed their mind, according to a 2013 Pew poll, was that they knew someone who was gay or lesbian. Unlike sexual orientation, polygamy isn't something most people will ever confront in their daily lives....

It's not as if people are coming out as polygamists across the country and are changing their friends' and families' minds....

But we "polyamorists next door" just might! Read the whole article (July 2, 2015).

You can google up many more recent stories on the Collier family.

Update August 28: The Colliers have decided they're prepared to run with this; they've gone ahead and filed a complaint against the state.


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