Montana One of Only Five States With No Court Case Fighting Marriage Ban

by Charles Joughin

Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota & South Dakota have yet to see lawsuits challenging state constitutional marriage bans

WASHINGTON – Dozens of court cases challenging state constitutional bans on marriage equality have been filed across the country in recent months.  Yet in five states – Alaska, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota – there is currently no litigation challenging the constitutionality of their state marriage bans. Today, 33 states prohibit marriage for same-sex couples, either in the form of statutory law or amendment to the state’s constitution.

“Montana’s committed and loving gay and lesbian couples deserve the rights and protections that come with marriage, plain and simple,” said Fred Sainz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign.  “Since the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage rulings last year, not a single state marriage ban has survived a federal court challenge.  It’s only a matter of time before marriage equality is the law of the land in every corner of this great country.” 

Approved in 2004, Montana Initiative 96 Article XIII, section 7 of the Montana Constitution to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages in the state. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the district courts of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state, as well as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Of the six marriage equality cases in states within the Ninth Circuit, Sevcik v. Sandoval of Nevada is the only case on appeal at the circuit court level. 

Presently there are at least 55 marriage equality court cases working their way through the judicial system across the country.  These cases have been filed in 28 states plus Puerto Rico and account for nearly 250 plaintiffs taking on state marriage bans.  Same-sex couples can legally marry in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, while 33 states have a law or constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman. 

Nine marriage equality cases have reached the federal appeals court level – all in just five federal judicial circuits.  In the Tenth Circuit are Kitchen v. Herbert out of Utah and Bishop v. United States of Oklahoma, Sevcik v. Sandoval of Nevada in the Ninth Circuit, DeLeon v. Perry out of Texas in the Fifth Circuit, Bostic v. Rainey of Virginia out of the Fourth Circuit, and four cases out of the Sixth Circuit - Tanco v. Haslam of Tennessee, Bourke vs. Beshear of Kentucky, Obergefell v. Kasich of Ohio, and DeBoer v. Snyder of Michigan.  The Sixth Circuit holds the distinction of being the only federal appeals court to date that will consider marriage cases from all states within its jurisdiction.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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