“Nathan Collier said he was inspired by the recent Supreme Court decision that made marriage equal. He said he was particularly struck by the words of dissenting Chief Justice John Roberts who claimed giving gay couples the right to marry, might inspire polygamy.
And so this week, Mr Collier and his two wives, Victoria and Christine, entered a courthouse in Billings, Montana, and sought an application to legalese the trio’s polygamous union.
“Right now we’re waiting for an answer,” Mr Collier told The Independent. “I have two wives because I love two women and I want my second wife to have the same legal rights and protection as my first.”
Given the Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell v. Hodges, Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs. Collier may have a point. Prior to June 26, 2015 there was not a clear path to the legal recognition of plural marriage, or polygamy in the U.S. The justification used in the majority’s ruling in Obergefell could however be used to justify marriages of three or more people.
Justice Kennedy presented the issue as a one where the 14th Amendment requires recognition of the right to same sex marriage writing:
These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.
The justice uses the term “couples” throughout his opinion, but not, it seems, to differentiate them from trios or quintuples. It’s hard to see what grounds plural marriage can be objected to under the rationale of Obergefell. This will undoubtedly lead to more litigation as those who wish to marry multiple spouses press for legal sanction of their relationships. Perhaps we will see some states do as Rand Paul has suggested, and simply stop granting marriages. In such a world marriage would be like baptism, a private religious affair without state sanction.
Paul claims, “[s]ince government has been involved in marriage, they have done what they always do — taxed it, regulated it, and now redefined it. It is hard to argue that government’s involvement in marriage has made it better, a fact also not surprising to those who believe government does little right.
Mr. Collier claims he and his intended wives will sue to enforce their marriage rights if no license is forthcoming.