Federal judge strikes down Montana same-sex marriage ban

A protester holds an American flag and rainbow flag.
A protester holds an American flag and rainbow flag.

Marriage equality is coming to yet another deeply conservative state -- this time, Montana.

A federal judge struck down the Big Sky’s same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday, positioning the state to join 33 others in allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally wed. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, a President Obama appointee, did not stay the effects of his ruling pending appeal, so same-sex couples will be able to marry immediately.

“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,” wrote Morris in his 18-page opinion. “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.”

Montana is bound to the decisions of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which last month became the fourth federal appeals court to strike down laws prohibiting same-sex nuptials. Until Wednesday, it was the only state in the circuit still denying gay and lesbian couples their marriage rights.

According to the group Freedom to Marry, Morris’ ruling is the 54th in favor of marriage equality since June 2013, when the nation’s highest court gutted the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and cleared the way for the U.S. government to begin recognizing same-sex nuptials. That decision set off a tidal wave of triumphs for gay and lesbian couples that continues to alter the legal landscape of marriage laws on a seemingly daily basis. Earlier Wednesday, a Charleston County probate judge began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in South Carolina, marking the official arrival of marriage equality in the Deep South.