MT Among Three States With No Action Against Gay Marriage Ban - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

MT Among Three States With No Action Against Gay Marriage Ban

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MISSOULA - Montana is now just one of three states that doesn't have a lawsuit seeking marriage rights for same-sex couples. This comes after five couples filed a lawsuit over Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage.

Missoula City Councilwoman Caitlin Copple moved from Idaho to Montana, because of its welcoming atmosphere to same sex couples.

"Part of the reason I left Idaho is because I felt Montana was a much more welcoming place," Copple said.

Now, Idaho couples can get married as early as Friday, after a judge named Idaho's same sex marriage ban unconstitutional on Tuesday.

"I was surprised by what happened yesterday," Copple said.

Montana's same sex marriage ban, passed by voters in 2004, has yet to be challenged.

"Here in Montana we're still working on non-discrimination protections," Copple said.

Copple said while she'd like to see a fight for marriage equality in all 50 states, here in Montana there's bigger fish to fry.

"It's a matter of figuring out where our efforts are best spent, while marriage impacts people in a loving relationship, all LGBT people suffer when we don't have non-discrimination," Copple said.

Right now, Montana's LGBT advocates are working to take non-discrimination protections to a state level.

"It's pretty clear full marriage equality is going to happen nationally in just a matter of time," Copple said.

Anthony Johnstone is an assistant professor of law at the University of Montana. With all states, but three having cases against same sex marriage bans, he said it's only a matter of time before the issue of marriage equality makes its way back to the Supreme Court.

"Many of the challenges going on in other states are likely to reach the Supreme Court in Washington, and decide this issue," Johnstone said.

He said here in Montana we could see same-sex marriage legalized through federal law if the Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage unconstitutional, or if Montana's ban on same-sex marriage is taken out of the state's constitution.

"The big question is whether they decide this issue in Washington, D.C. before we decide on this issue under the Montana Constitution," Johnstone said.

The Human Rights Campaign said North Dakota and South Dakota are the other two states without lawsuits seeking marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.

While no pending cases in Montana specifically address marriage, one lawsuit does call for state-recognized domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

The American Civil Liberties Union is currently representing six same-sex couples who have sued the state of Montana for failing to offer legal protections to same-sex couples and their families. The goal of this lawsuit is to see that same-sex couples are able to protect their families with the same kind of legal protections that the state offers to different-sex couples through marriage.
    
The Montana Supreme Court denied the initial appeal calling it too broad. However, it encouraged the ACLU to move forward with a narrowly tailored appeal to equal treatment for same-sex couples in the state.
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