More the Merrier: Who Needs Monogamy in Montana?

Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, was a champion of the same-sex marriage legalization movement.

But even he thinks the idea of one man legally marrying one woman, and then another and another would be ruinous for the nation.

If nothing else, Rauch is afraid legalizing polygamy would allow “high-status men to hoard wives at the expense of lower status men.”

Such could be the case in Billings, Mont., where Nathan Collier, who already has one good woman, wants another.

Nathan’s legally wedded wife, Vicki, thinks it is a wonderful idea for her husband to marry another woman, Christine.

Nathan and Christine totally confused Yellowstone County officials when they applied for a marriage license June 30. The bureaucratic procedure that is completed effortlessly countless times a day in county offices all across America quickly ground to a halt as local officials tried to figure out why Nathan, who is married to Vicki, would think he could apply for a marriage license to wed Christine.

Better yet, why would he want to?

"So, are you legally married, you didn't get divorced?" asked one clerk.

"We'll have to deny that, let me go grab the other supervisor real quick so I can get confirmation but as far as I'm aware you can't be married to two people at the same time," said a supervisor.

The state Attorney General’s Office, as KRTV-TV reported, cleared up all confusion for Nathan, Christine, and the perplexed county officials by affirming polygamy is definitely illegal in Montana.

Christine told MTN News she can’t understand the problem with polygamy.

"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."

In fact, marrying more than one spouse at a time falls into the category of “Offenses Against the Family” and is classified as a misdemeanor in Montana.

Nathan and Christine plan to challenge the law in court. He has already emailed the ACLU for assistance.

"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.

It was easy to miss, but Nathan, Vicki and Christine were introduced to America on an episode of TLC’s Sister Wives cable TV show.

In the words of the TLC publicity department, Sister Wives is a cable TV show “which follows Kody Brown, his four wives and their combined 17 children trying to live as a ‘normal’ family in a society that shuns their lifestyle. Three of the wives -- Meri, Janelle and Christine -- have worked for years with Kody to develop a cohesive, loving unit, and their marriages produced 13 kids. Then wife No. 4, Robyn, and her three children were added to the family much later, a development that produced mixed feelings, insecurities and uncertainties.”

Which leads to the dramatic tease — “Will it disrupt the balance and change the Browns' lives for the worse?”

Spoiler Alert:  The answer is “yes.” Their menage a trois plus one didn't work out. Meri, who was wife No. 1 for Kody, pulled out. They divorced in February.

Like any other marriage, a polygamist’s union is not always pretty. But those who ride this rollercoaster of love with more than one person in the passenger seat would like the rest of us to open our minds and better understand the lifestyle they have chosen.

Polygamy is a nasty word for people like Kody Brown, his two wives, and one ex-wife; and Nathan Collier, his wife and the woman he wants to also marry. They prefer to describe the idea of marrying two or more people as “polyamory” and their relationships as “polyamorous.”

If the word “polyamory” is new to you, don’t worry. It’s new to all of us. “Polyamory” and all of its derivatives only entered the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary in 2006.

Of course, the people who want to live the poly way have their own national support and advocacy (lobbying) organization, Loving More.

Loving More’s website, www.lovemore.com, explains a polyamorous lifestyle is more than simply “non-monogamy.”

“It (polyamory) connotes multiple romantic relationships carried out with certain assumptions and ideals: of honesty and clear agreements among partners, mutual good will and respect among all involved, intense interpersonal communication, and high ethical standards.”

Loving More staff writer Robyn Trask wonders in an article on the website if the media (and the rest of us) will ever really understand those, like she, who are polyamorous.

Her point is polyamory is not about an unbridled sex drive, although it does seem obvious that would help.

“For me, I am polyamorous because I fell in love again and again. Falling in love with one, two or three people is just part of who I am. Polyamory is not about spicing up my relationship, having sex on the side or to overcome boredom in my relationship, as is often implied in many media stories. Polyamory, for me, is being able to commit to love and connection with special people while remaining open to new possibilities that might spark my interest.”

If gay marriage was opposed for reasons not founded in rationality, Rauch has argued, the same cannot be said for polygamy. It has passed the litmus test of nuttiness.

“There is ample evidence that polygamy has many severe consequences for third parties and for society as a whole,” he said.