The defendant, Rodney Hans Holm did not enter into a state-sanctioned marriage with the second wife, only a religious "spiritual marriage." He therefore argued that the state needs to treat him the same as a married man who takes up living with another woman, and, if it does not, it is discriminating against him based on religion.
Justice Matthew B. Durrant, writing for the majority, responded that Utah lawmakers did not intend to narrowly define marriage as a state-sanctioned union. There can be no doubt that Holm purported to marry Stubbs, Durrant wrote, citing her white dress, her vows and their life together.It makes sense to read the statute as covering the solemnized union that the participants intend to constitute a marriage. The more difficult problem is whether the state can legitimately distinguish two sexual relationships where the difference could be characterized as having only to do with the beliefs that the individuals have about it. Chief Justice Christine M. Durham dissented, relying on a narrow construction of the statute, which she would apply only to acquiring a second marriage license from the state.
"The crux of marriage in our society, perhaps especially a religious marriage, is not so much the license as the solemnization . . . by which two individuals commit themselves to undertake a marital relationship," Durrant wrote.
Durham pointed to the increasing number of couples who live together outside the bonds of a traditional marriage, and noted they are not prosecuted.Here's the PDF of the (very long) opinion.
"While some in society may feel that the institution of marriage is diminished when individuals consciously choose to avoid it," she wrote, "it is generally understood that the state is not entitled to criminally punish its citizens for making such a choice, even if they do so with multiple partners or partners of the same sex."
IN THE COMMENTS: We discuss the significance of the statutory language "cohabits with another person."