Gay Marriage | News | North Dakota

North Dakota AG Says Man in Out-of-State Gay Marriage Can Marry Woman Without Divorcing First

In a decision that illustrates just how asinine the current patchwork, state-based solution to the gay marriage issue is, North Dakota attorney general Wayne Stenehjem has announced that individuals in out-of-state same-sex marriages can obtain marriage licenses in the state without getting divorced first. Grand Forks’s WDAZ 8 reports

Wayne StenehjemBurleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha said he requested the opinion after a man who still had a legal same-sex marriage in another state came to the county recorder’s office in September and applied for a marriage license to wed a woman.

“You don’t see those every day,” he said.

Riha asked Stenehjem for his opinion on whether a county recorder could issue a marriage license in such a case in which the person with the same-sex marriage hadn’t gotten a divorce.

Same-sex marriage isn’t recognized as legally valid under North Dakota’s Constitution and state law, which both explicitly define marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman. 

State law also requires that a prior marriage be dissolved or annulled before a new marriage license can be issued. 

In his opinion, Stenehjem wrote that a person’s previously valid same-sex marriage in another state isn’t recognized in North Dakota, so he or she may still obtain a valid marriage license here. The person also isn’t committing a crime by indicating on the marriage license application that he or she was single or never married, the opinion states.

Stenenhjem, however, declined to weigh in on whether or not an individual in this situation would be violating the other state’s bigamy law if he or she moved back, saying that he would “defer to state legislatures to resolve this unique issue.” 

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  1. Bigots roll like this.


    Posted by: Turn | Dec 15, 2013 9:00:30 PM

  2. Well, I guess the couple will be stuck in North Dakota the rest of their lives. But regardless of what Stenehjem says, it doesn't prevent the first (male) spouse to go to his state authorities and pursue a criminal, bigamy charge as well as cause all kinds of trouble where things like income taxes and benefits are concerned. The second (female) spouse must be pretty desperate to get married, if she wants to do this before the husband-to-be is free of all civil, legal encumbrances. - jmho

    Posted by: Lexis | Dec 15, 2013 9:07:56 PM

  3. Oh wow... this oughta make the North Dakota Mormons Happy! Finally, legalized bigamy brought to you by The Norh Dakota Republican Dictatorship...and it didn't cost them a nickel.

    And, BTW...did anyone catch the name of the actual person asking for that post-gay-now-straight Marriage certificate?


    ...Does it say ANYWHERE in the article the actual NAME of the 'ex-gay' Human Being requesting a straight marriage?



    Bull Shee*t on you, Richard Rhia.

    Just Doing God's Work, by further stoking their 'Lying for Jesus' campaign.


    Posted by: q | Dec 15, 2013 9:16:17 PM

  4. If the bigamist should die, Social Security won't pay survivor benefits to both spouses. In this case, they'll probably go with the first marriage. When the spouses reach retirement age, only one spouse can base their widow/ widower Social Security benefits based on the bigamist's Social Security.

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Dec 15, 2013 9:19:27 PM

  5. Because marriage to a woman is to be encouraged in DK, of course.

    Posted by: Andy Towlette | Dec 15, 2013 9:33:52 PM

  6. It's important to read the detailed history about how court cases dealing with inter-racial marriage came out --- and then see that what's happening now with same-sex marriage disputes is almost a carbon copy of what happened with inter-racial marriages. Eventually, these kinds of insane results led the Supreme Court to find that no state could ban inter-racial marriage.

    By way of one example, there is a 1921 case called "Estate of Monks" where Mr. Monks had 2 wills: 1st will left everything to a friend Ms. Lee, 2nd will left everything to his new wife whom he married in Arizona. The dispute over the estate look place in California where Mr. Monks apparently died Ms. Lee claimed that the 1st will was the only valid will because it was illegal in Arizona for a white person (Mr. Monks) to marry a black person (his new wife). The California court agreed and found that because Mrs. Monks could not legally be the wife of Mr. Monks under the law of Arizona where they were married, therefore their marriage would not be recognized as legal in California. The result: Ms. Lee got all the money.

    So, until the US Supreme Court decides the issue of whether every state has to recognize a valid same-sex marriage from another state (or decides that the US Constitution requires all states to allow same-sex marriage), we are going to see weird situations like the one in North Dakota -- and like Mrs. Monks and many other "old" court cases that dealt with so-called "illegal" inter-racial marriages.

    Posted by: MiddleoftheRoader | Dec 15, 2013 10:03:54 PM

  7. So when the law changes in North Dakota, does he become a bigamist even there? Remember, the constitution's ban on ex-post facto laws doesn't apply here. That is meant to protect individuals from surprises. This can hardly be a surprise!

    Besides, he would already be a bigamist in the state of the original marriage and many other states (including those that don't have same sex marriage but recognize other states marriages). Also, he would already be a bigamist under federal law!

    Posted by: Gay Guy | Dec 15, 2013 10:34:56 PM

  8. Due the many problems listed above, this is great news as it shows the idiocy of state-by-state legality. The SCOTUS will need to normalize and will do so in our favor. This is not to besmirch the state-by-state strategy of the pro-equality community.

    Posted by: David R. | Dec 15, 2013 10:45:47 PM

  9. P.S. Don't forget to click on the John Cornyn ads to get TR some cash and help use up Cornyn's horde.

    Posted by: David R. | Dec 15, 2013 10:47:09 PM

  10. Hopefully the prospective bride has given some serious thought about marrying this guy.

    Posted by: andrew | Dec 15, 2013 11:25:48 PM

  11. It makes sense that if the state does not recognize the existence of the previous marriage that it would be willing to issue a new marriage license. But under those circumstances, only a fool would get one.

    Posted by: Hyhybt | Dec 15, 2013 11:59:50 PM

  12. This AG is terrible. The question asks if you were legally married elsewhere. The answer to that question is NOT by the definition of North Dakota's marriage. It is by the definition of the location of the marriage. So, even in North Dakota this marriage is bigomy regardless of what ND laws on same-sex marriage state.

    Posted by: Richard | Dec 16, 2013 3:44:10 AM

  13. Even if the AG does believe this garbage, I hope he had enough sense to say something like "But I really don't recommend this course of action. You should get a legal divorce in the other state first."

    Since the Fed govt grants nationwide recognition of all same-sex marriages if they were performed in a state that allows same-sex marriage, they may not & should not recognize that man's ND marriage for Federal benefits purposes. Can bigamy be a federal crime?

    Posted by: AdamTh | Dec 16, 2013 7:50:26 AM

  14. I think this kind of non-sense increases the likelihood of SCOTUS issuing a ruling that settles everything nationwide once and for all.

    Posted by: Chris | Dec 16, 2013 8:23:37 AM

  15. Republican-controlled government changing the "Definition of Marriage"???

    Oh...thats just delicious.

    Posted by: Jeremy | Dec 16, 2013 11:14:04 AM

  16. SLIPPERY SLOPE! SLIPPERy SLOPE! They're hurtling toward state-endorsed polygamy in Norf Dakoota!

    Posted by: Slippery When Met | Dec 16, 2013 11:48:55 AM

  17. Same sex doesn't matter, it depends on mentality of people.

    Posted by: Luke Logan | Dec 17, 2013 1:00:02 AM

  18. To paraphrase Dickens: 'The law-maker is a ass."

    Posted by: Citizen George | Dec 17, 2013 12:15:40 PM

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