Montana Polygamist Fights To Legitimize His Family -- Is Polygamy The Next Civil Rights Issue?

Shelley Hazen

Is polygamy the new same-sex marriage? One polygamist in Montana seems to think it should be. With an argument based in the U.S. Supreme Court's historic decision to recognize all unions, Nathan Collier marched into his county clerk's office seeking a marriage license for his second wife.

The Montana polygamist and his two wives -- Victoria is the legally recognized wife, Christine the "spiritually" recognized one -- said the reaction they got from staff at Yellowstone County was humiliating. But after rejecting their license, they did agree to hash out the legal particulars with the county attorney.

Still, Nathan, Christine, and Victoria say they are a family same as anyone else, and they want to live that way without fear, he told Time.

"Everyday, we have to break the law to exist as a family. We're tired of it. Ours is a happy, functional, loving family. I'm not trying to redefine marriage. I'm not forcing anyone to believe in polygamy. We're only defining marriage for us. We just want legitimacy."

As legal foundation, the Montana polygamist has turned to Chief Justice John Roberts' dissenting opinion, in which he stated that allowing same-sex unions would mean that polygamous couples should be afforded the same rights, Reuters added.

Right now, bigamy and polygamy are illegal under both federal and Montana state law. Collier has been married to Victoria for 15 years; he "married" Christine in a spiritual ceremony recently, but he wants a license to make it legit. And not being able to do so makes this polygamist family feel "violated."

"We feel entitled for a legal legitimacy and for [the Yellowstone County Courthouse] to deny this is a violation of our civil rights," Collier said. "We feel the marriage equality law applies to us."

But even though the polygamist lifestyle has undergone a transformation due to the show Sister Wives -- similar to how Will and Grace helped people understand homosexuality -- and public support for it has grown a bit, it's not likely to become the next civil rights issue, the Washington Post argued.

In fact, people who identify as polygamist often supported gay rights because they thought it would pave the way for their lifestyle, even if they didn't agree with it on religious grounds.

But the arguments against polygamy, as practiced by this vocal Montana trio, are two-fold: people aren't born with the tendency, nor does the average person meet someone in a plural marriage very often. The Church of Latter Day Saints is now against the practice, as are most people from Utah, where polygamy often hails.

Montana polygamist Nathan was excommunicated from his church for having more than one wife.

But Christine -- the "spiritual" wife -- told local news station KBZK that her complicated family, with five kids and a few divorces mixed in, is just as important and legitimate as any other.

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

What do you think? Do you agree that this Montana trio should be afford the same rights?

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