Thursday, December 12, 2013

North Dakota Attorney General: I Believe in Bigamy -- As Long As One of the Couples is Gay!

(Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem)
North Dakota's Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) was recently asked a series of questions by the Burleigh County Recorder's office about how to proceed with a marriage license request involving a citizen of North Dakota who'd entered into a same-sex marriage in another state, then separated from his/her same-sex spouse -- but didn't get divorced. This individual now wants to marry someone of the opposite sex:
Since North Dakota does NOT recognize same-sex marriages, but North Dakota’s marriage license laws require that someone previously married had to have a formal divorce before being allowed to buy a license, can the recorder issue that license? Also, if the couple is allowed to marry in North Dakota, but then moves to a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, is that bigamy?
Attorney General Stenehjem says that it's not bigamy because those in same-sex marriages aren't really married. -- at least not while living in North Dakota. And he doesn't believe himself qualified enough to decide if those twice-married-but-never-divorced couples would be considered bigamists once they crossed state borders, for example, to neighboring Minnesota or Iowa.

Apparently, bigamy does not violate federal law. So it's unclear how the three or four people in this type of hypothetical broken-same-sex-marriage-newbie-opposite-sex-marriage(s) would file federal tax returns on their marriages.

But this Attorney General opinion statement does seem to back-up one of the slippery slope arguments posed recently by an anti-gay legislator in Hawaii. She wondered if Hawaii was indirectly leading the way to legal polygamy by setting up a situation where a person married and/or civilly unionized elsewhere were to move to Hawaii and marry a new gay person. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem just laid out the possibility for one such scenario in North Dakota -- except this scenario would be acted out by opposite-sex couples instead of same-sex couples!

1 comment:

David said...

Hello, unintended consequences.