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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 20 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 51
North Dakota OKs Bisexual plural marriage
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North Dakota OKs Bisexual plural marriage

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A male resident of North Dakota may marry a woman even if he is already married to another man, the state's Attorney General ruled on December 12.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said that since his state bans same-sex marriage by state law and state constitutional amendment, no Gay or Lesbian couple is considered legally married in the state, and, therefore, any resident of the state could marry an opposite-sex partner regardless of having married a same-sex partner in another state.

Stenehjem also found that a resident with a same-sex spouse would not be committing a crime in North Dakota if he or she filled out a marriage license application as 'single/never married.'

The Attorney General declined to discuss whether he could be prosecuted for bigamy in another state if he later moved to a state that recognized same-sex marriage.

The issue came to Stenehjem in a round about way. A man who would only identify himself by his first name called Burleigh County Recorder Debbie Kroshus, the official in charge of issuing marriage licenses, and asked if he could marry a woman in North Dakota if he was already married to a man in another state.

'I didn't ask where this caller was calling from or where he planned on getting a marriage license,' Kroshus told Reuters. She added she could not determine if the man had already applied for a marriage license.

The man could not divorce his husband in North Dakota because the state does not recognize the validity of same-sex marriage, and he said his husband also lives in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, Kroshus said.

Kroshus then asked the state's attorney from Burleigh County to seek an opinion from the Attorney General.

De Paul University law professor Jeffrey Shaman told Reuters that more and more people will enter into same-sex marriages and move to other states as the recognition of same-sex marriage increases. And same-sex couples, like opposite-sex couples, will part ways.

'I think there are going to be more and more of these questions,' Shaman said.

'Although this is pretty extreme in its complexity, situations like these do arise because of the nature of our country,' Shaman added. 'We are a federation and states have authority to enact laws as they see fit.'

In his opinion, Stenehjem referenced the part of DOMA that says states need not recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state, a part that was not struck down in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Windsor.

The North Dakota Attorney General's opinion came a day before a federal judge struck down a portion of Utah's bigamy law, saying it bars consenting adults from living together and criminalizes their intimate sexual relationships.

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