United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
CHRISTINE COLLIER, also known as Christine Parkinson; VICTORIA “VICKI” COLLIER; and NATHAN COLLIER, Plaintiffs,
TIM FOX, in his official capacity as Attorney General of Montana; STEVE BULLOCK, in his official capacity as Governor of Montana; SCOTT TWITO, in his official capacity as Yellowstone County Attorney, and TERRY HALPIN in her official capacity as Clerk of the Yellowstone County District Court, Defendants.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF U.S. MAGISTRATE
TIMOTHY J. CAVAN United States Magistrate Judge.
Christine Collier, Vicki Collier, and Nathan Collier (the
“Colliers”) bring this action against Tim Fox, in
his official capacity as Attorney General of Montana; Steve
Bullock, in his official capacity as Governor of Montana;
Scott Twito, in his official capacity as Yellowstone County
Attorney, and Terry Halpin, in her official capacity as Clerk
of the Yellowstone County District Court. As outlined
below, the Colliers allege several claims against the
Defendants under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution. (Doc. 33.)
pending are the State Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 67) (“Defendants' Motion”), in
which the County Defendants join (Doc. 72), and the
Colliers' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 75)
(“Colliers' Motion”). Having reviewed the
motions, associated briefing and exhibits, and the applicable
law, the Court makes the following findings and
parties generally agree upon the following pertinent facts.
Nathan and Vicki were legally married in Dillon, South
Carolina, on April 26, 2000. (Doc. 79 at ¶ 3.) They have
been married continuously since that date. (Doc. 69 at ¶
2.) Nathan also is in a committed romantic relationship with
Christine, and they desire to legally marry. (Doc. 79 at
¶ 1.) Vicki and Christine are aware of Nathan's
relationship with one another, and each consents to be
married to Nathan simultaneously. (Id.) The Colliers
have “committed to raise, support, nurture, and care
for one another's children, including [Christine's]
children from a prior marriage.” (Id. at
¶ 4.) The Colliers have parented their eight children
jointly for several years. (Id. at ¶ 5.) There
is no evidence to suggest that either of Nathan's
romantic relationships - with Vicki or with Christine -
involves dishonesty, coercion, fraud, abuse, or violence.
(Id. at ¶ 16.)
30, 2015, Nathan and Christine went to the Yellowstone County
Clerk of District Court Marriage License Division to apply
for a marriage license; the application was denied.
(Id. at ¶¶ 8-9.) The Yellowstone County
Attorney's office subsequently sent a letter (the
“Denial Letter” or “Letter”) to the
Colliers on July 14, 2015, formally denying the request for a
marriage license. (Doc. 22-1.) The Denial Letter informed the
Colliers that their request for a marriage license could not
be granted because granting the license would place the
Colliers in violation of Montana law, citing Mont. Code Ann.
§§ 45-5-611 and 612. (Id.) Those statutes
respectively criminalize entering into multiple marriages,
and marrying a person knowing that the person is married to
another. Though the Denial Letter identifies Mont. Code Ann.
§§ 45-5-611 and 612 as statutes that criminalize
bigamy, the Denial Letter does not threaten prosecution of
the Colliers. (Id.)
Colliers responded by bringing this action, challenging the
validity of what they characterize as Montana's
Court will discuss additional facts below as necessary.
Colliers' Claims and Requested Relief
Colliers' Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 43) contains the
following seven claims under the First and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution: (1) that Mont.
Code Ann. §§ 45-5-611 and 612 violate the Free
Exercise Clause of the First Amendment (Doc. 43 at
¶¶ 52-66); (2) that Mont. Code Ann. §§
45-5-611 and 612 criminalize the exercise of fundamental
liberty interests protected under the Due Process Clause of
the Fourteenth Amendment (Id. at ¶¶
67-74); (3) that “State anti-polygamy criminal
statutes, and State unequal legal treatment of polygamous
marriage, ” violate the Establishment Clause of the
First Amendment (Id. at 75-78); (4) that
“State anti-polygamy criminal statutes, and State
unequal legal treatment of polygamous marriage, ”
violate the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment
(Id. at ¶¶ 79-83); (5) that Mont. Code
Ann. §§ 45-5-611 and 612 violate the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Id.
at ¶¶ 84-96); (6) that “State anti-polygamy
laws, and State unequal legal treatment of polygamous
marriage, ” violate the right of free association under
the First Amendment (Id. at ¶¶ 97-99); and
(7) that Defendants' enforcement of Mont. Code Ann.
§§ 45-5-611 and 612, acting under color of State
law, deprives the Colliers of “numerous rights secured
by the First and Fourteenth Amendment, ” in violation
of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Id. at 100-101).
relief for the foregoing claims, the Colliers request (1) an
order finding that Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45-5-611 and
612 violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (Id. at ¶ 102); (2) that the
Court enjoin, both preliminarily and permanently,
Defendants' enforcement and application of Mont. Code
Ann. §§ 45-5-611 or 612 and applicable civil laws
(Id. at ¶¶ 103-104); (3) that Defendants
issue a marriage license to Christine and Nathan
(Id. at ¶ 105); and (4) award the Colliers
attorney fees and costs (Id. at ¶ 108).
The Parties' Motions
Colliers have filed a motion for summary judgment, generally
arguing that Montana's criminal and civil anti-polygamy
statutes are unconstitutional and violate their First and
Fourteenth Amendments rights.
State responds that the constitutionality of state
anti-polygamy statutes was established in Reynolds v.
U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878), which directly controls the
outcome of this case. The State maintains that the Colliers
have failed to establish either the Court's authority to
disregard Reynolds or, assuming the Court has such
authority, legal justification for doing so. (Id. at
7-14.) The County Defendants also oppose the Collier's
motion for summary judgment, and similarly argue that
Montana's anti-polygamy laws do not violate the United
State Defendants have also filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the Colliers
lack standing to challenge the anti-polygamy laws at issue.
(Doc. 68 at 10-16.) In this regard, Defendants argue that the
Colliers' claims are purely hypothetical, because the
Colliers have never been threatened with any prosecution and
their claims therefore are not ripe. The County Defendants
have joined in the State Defendants' motion.
judgment is appropriate where the moving party demonstrates
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and
entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986). Material facts are those which may affect
the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a
material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for
a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the
nonmoving party. Id. “Disputes over irrelevant
or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary
judgment.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec.
Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.
party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial
burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The moving
party can satisfy this burden in two ways: (1) by presenting
evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving
party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving
party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an
element essential to that party's case on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. at
322-23. If the moving party fails to discharge this initial
burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need
not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. Adickes
v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).
moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden
then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine
issue as to any material fact actually does exist.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In attempting to establish the
existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party must
“go beyond the pleadings and by ‘the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, '
designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The opposing party
cannot defeat summary judgment merely by demonstrating
“that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586;
Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D Co., 68 F.3d 1216,
1221 (9th Cir. 1995) (“The mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's
position is not sufficient.”) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
the parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, the
court must consider each party's evidence, regardless
under which motion the evidence is offered.” Las
Vegas Sands, LLC v. Nehme, 632 F.3d 526, 532 (9th Cir.
2011). “It is well-settled in this circuit and others
that the filing of cross-motions for summary judgment, both
parties asserting that there are no uncontested issues of
material fact, does not vitiate the court's
responsibility to determine whether disputed issues of
material fact are present. A summary judgment cannot be
granted if a genuine issue as to any material fact
exists.” U.S. v. Fred A. Arnold, Inc., 573
F.2d 605, 606 (9th Cir. 1978).