Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Montana's Anti-Polygamy Laws Upheld

In Collier v. Fox, (D MT, March 9, 2018), a Montana federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendations and dismissed a challenge to Montana's civil and criminal anti-polygamy laws. When the state denied Nathan Collier a marriage license to marry a second wife, he nevertheless entered a relationship with her and they hold themselves out as being married. The magistrate's Feb. 22 opinion (full text) dismisses the challenge to the state's criminal anti-polygamy provisions because there is no genuine threat that the parties challenging the law will be prosecuted, saying:
The State Defendants have taken the position that Nathan’s and Christine’s declaration to be husband and wife, without the accompanying possession of a state-issued marriage license, is insufficient to violate the Montana bigamy statutes. Therefore, this case presents the unusual situation where the State of Montana has taken the position that the Colliers’ conduct is not criminal, while the Colliers insist that it is.
Plaintiffs also challenge the state's refusal to issue a marriage license for Collier's marriage to his second wife.  The court held that the state's anti-polygamy law is constitutional, relying on the U.S. Supreme Court's 1878 decision in Reynolds v. United States. Billings Gazette reports on the decision.