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Marriage Equality

Montana Same-Sex Couples Now Free to Marry

Montana Same-Sex Couples Now Free to Marry

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With a federal judge's order striking down the state's ban on same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian couples can marry immediately in Montana.

A federal judge Wednesday ruled that Montana's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution, clearing the way for same-sex couples in the state to begin marrying immediately.

In his ruling regarding a May lawsuit filed by four same-sex couples, U.S. District Judge Brian Morris pointed to recent decisions from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which found similar bans in Idaho and Nevada to be unconstitutional. Montana is the only state in the Ninth Circuit that had yet to embrace marriage equality.

"These families, like all of us, want their children to adventure into the world without fear of violence; to achieve all that their talent and perseverance allows without fear of discrimination; and to love themselves so that they can love others," Morris wrote in his decision. "No family wants to deprive its precious children of the chance to marry the loves of their lives. Montana no longer can deprive Plaintiffs and other same-sex couples of the chance to marry their loves."

The Human Rights Campaign reports that same-sex couples are able to marry immediately in Montana, though it notes that the state's Republican attorney general, Tim Fox, is likely to appeal today's decision.

If Fox does appeal, he could ask either Morris or the Ninth Circuit for a stay of today's ruling, though the likelihood that request would be granted is slim. The Ninth Circuit has consistently ruled in favor of marriage equality and rejected requests from state officials in Idaho and Alaska that sought to delay the freedom to marry. If the Ninth Circuit rejected that request, Fox could petition the U.S. Supreme Court, though similar petitions from other states in the Ninth Circuit have been denied by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who oversees requests from that circiut.

Montana governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has expressed his support for marriage equality, and he recently told reporters that "the time has come for our state to recognize and celebrate -- not discriminate against -- two people who love each other, are committed to each other, and want to spend their lives together."

Montana becomes the 35th U.S. state (plus the District of Columbia) where same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses.

At least one county in South Carolina began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Wednesday, as long as those couples had previously applied for such a license last month. A federal judge's ruling striking down that state's ban on marriage is set to take effect Thursday at noon, unless the U.S. Supreme Court grants a last-minute request by state officials to stay the decision.

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