HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana on Wednesday joined 28 other states with legal battles over gay marriage, while same-sex couples in Pennsylvania spent their first full day applying for marriage licenses knowing the governor wouldn’t stand in their way.
A federal lawsuit filed by four gay couples in Montana leaves just two states - North Dakota and South Dakota - with gay marriage bans and no legal challenges aiming to overturn them. But that’s likely to change as same-sex marriage advocates there gear up for a legal fight.
State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Gay and lesbian couples can wed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, with Oregon and Pennsylvania becoming the latest to join the list this week when federal judges struck down their bans and officials decided not to appeal.
The Montana couples say their state’s constitutional ban denies gay couples the freedom and dignity afforded to other Montanans and robs them of the legal protections and benefits that come with marriage. Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock released a statement supporting their cause, while the state’s Republican attorney general said he would vigorously defend the ban.
Meanwhile, a lesbian couple from Rapid City, South Dakota, said they also plan to challenge their state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the coming days, along with a provision in federal law that lets states avoid recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere. Their attorney said he’s contemplating filing a lawsuit in North Dakota, too.
Here’s a look at where things stand with other legal challenges across the country:
A state judge in Arkansas’ largest county earlier this month struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, saying the state has “no rational reason” for preventing gay couples from marrying. The state Supreme Court brought the marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials’ appeal.
State officials announced this week they will appeal last week’s decision from a federal judge overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The appeal goes to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
State attorneys have asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to review a federal judge’s recent order requiring Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple in which one woman is terminally ill. That ruling applies just to one couple - not to others who were legally wed elsewhere and are seeking to have Indiana recognize their marriages.