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Four couples file lawsuit challenging Montana’s same-sex marriage ban

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
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Montana plaintiffs pictured (clockwise from top left): Tonya and Angie Rolando of Great Falls, Ben Milano and Chase Weinhandl of Bozeman, Shauna and Nicole Goubeaux of Billings (with their son Aden), and Sue Hawthorne and Adel Johnson of Helena. (Photos via ACLU Montana)


HELENA, Mont. — Four gay couples announced Wednesday they are suing Montana over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, making North Dakota and South Dakota the only two states with similar bans and no lawsuits seeking to overturn them.

The Montana suit was being filed in federal court in Great Falls. It lists as plaintiffs four Montana couples who are either unmarried or who were married outside the state.

The lawsuit alleges the ban denies same-sex couples the freedom and dignity afforded to other Montanans, and denies them the state and federal legal protections and benefits that come with marriage.

“We want Aden to grow up knowing that we are a family like any other family,” plaintiff Shauna Goubeaux said in a statement of her and wife Nicole’s 1-year-old son. “Marriage is part of being a family. By being plaintiffs in this case, we are showing him his mommies will stand up for what is right and stand up for him.”

In add ition to Shauna and Nicole Goubeaux, the plaintiffs are Angie and Tonya Rolando; Ben Milano and Chase Weinhandl; and Sue Hawthorne and Adel Johnson. The couples are represented in part by the ACLU of Montana.

Gov. Steve Bullock released a statement in support of the couples.

“Montanans cherish our freedom and recognize the individual dignity of every one of us,” he said. “The time has come for our state to recognize and celebrate – not discriminate against – two people who love one another, are committed to each other, and want to spend their lives together.”

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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.

After Montana’s lawsuit, only North Dakota and South Dakota will remain as having a gay marriage prohibition that isn’t under review, although a suit in South Dakota is expected to be filed this week.

Montana voters in 2004 approved a state constitutional amendment providing that only a marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized as a marriage in the state.

An attorney for the couples, Elizabeth Gill, said in a statement “it’s time for Montana to join the march toward equality for all loving and committed couples across the country.”

The complaint is here.

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