HELENA, Mont. - A federal judge in Montana has overturned the state's ban on gay marriage. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled Wednesday that Montana's constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between a man and a woman violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.
The clerk of district court in Montana's most populous county, Yellowstone, said she expects her office to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Thursday morning. Also Thursday, the ACLU is planning celebrations at several county courthouses. Montana's Republican attorney general, Tim Fox, filed an appeal against the ruling late Wednesday afternoon. Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement he has instructed his administration to quickly take the appropriate steps to ensure legally married same-sex couples are recognized and afforded the same rights and responsibilities that married Montanans enjoy.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in September that Idaho and Nevada's bans are unconstitutional. Montana is part of the 9th Circuit, and Morris cited the Circuit Court's opinion in his ruling. The move comes after four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in May challenging Montana's gay marriage ban. Morris wrote in his decision that Montana no longer can deprive plaintiffs and other same-sex couples of the chance to marry their loves. He says his ruling is effective immediately.
Click here to read the Judge's full decision.