Montana and Florida the latest battlegrounds over same-sex marriage

Tonya and Angie Rolando of Great Falls, Mont., in May. They and three other couples have filed a lawsuit challenging the state's same-sex marriage ban.
(Lisa Baumann / Associated Press)

The battle over same-sex marriage continues to spread to other states, with the latest action in Montana and Florida.

A judge declared Florida’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional - at least in the county where he presides - and Montana Atty. Gen. Tim Fox is asking a federal court to uphold the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

Fox said that Montanans made their decision regarding same-sex marriage in 2004 when they voted for a constitutional provision allowing that “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state,” according to a filing to the U.S. District Court of Great Falls.


In May, four same-sex couples in Montana - some of whom were married in other states but reside in Montana - filed a lawsuit that challenged the ban.

The plaintiffs said the ban denied same-sex couples the legal protections and benefits that come with a state-recognized marriage in Montana.

In the court documents filed Thursday, the state attorney general’s office argued “that Montana’s recognition of marriage as between one man and one woman does not constitute or impose an unconstitutional stigma or second-class citizenship on persons in a same-sex relationship.”

The motion came the same day a judge in Florida overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage, though the decision applies only to Monroe County, which mainly consists of the Florida Keys.

Judge Luis Garcia ordered the Monroe County clerk to issue a marriage license to a Key West couple who have been together for more than 11 years, court filings show.

Garcia found that Florida’s statewide ban, including the state’s Defense of Marriage Act that passed in 2008, was discriminatory against same-sex couples and unconstitutional.


The U.S. has a history of protecting “the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and the rights of the powerless, even at the expense of offending the majority,” he wrote in his decision.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia. In other states - including Colorado, Indiana and Utah - bans on gay marriage have been overturned in lower courts, though the decisions have been stayed while they are appealed.

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