HELENA — A Billings man, his wife and his common-law wife filed a federal lawsuit Thursday that seeks to strike down Montana’s bigamy laws and argues the state is unconstitutionally preventing them from legitimizing their polygamous relationship.
Nathan, Victoria and Christine Collier turned to the courts after Yellowstone County officials denied Nathan and Christine’s request for a marriage license in June. Nathan Collier said he was inspired the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriage to legally wed his second wife.
“I’m fighting for my family’s right to exist as a family,” Collier told The Associated Press. “I can’t imagine a greater cause to fight for.”
Nathan and Victoria Collier married in 2000. Nathan and Christine Collier held a religious ceremony in 2007 but did not sign a marriage license. The three live together in Billings, have eight children from their own and from past relationships and went public by appearing on the reality cable television show “Sister Wives” in January.
In their lawsuit, they argue the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling means that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is inconsistent with the fundamental right to marry. They also reference biblical figures and historical who had multiple wives as evidence of polygamy’s historical acceptance.
They speak about how they were excommunicated from the Mormon church for polygamy, and how they only want to love, protect, care and financially provide for each other.
The state laws that forbid a man from marrying more than one woman denies them their constitutionally guaranteed rights to equal protection, due process, free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of association, the lawsuit said.
Nathan Collier said he wants a judge to prevent the state from enforcing those laws against consenting men and women in “plural relationships.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Billings. It names Attorney General Tim Fox, Gov. Steve Bullock, Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito and Yellowstone County District Court Clerk Kristie Lee Boelter as defendants.
The defendants declined to comment on the lawsuit.