A federal judge struck down a Montana ban on gay marriage on Wednesday, saying that it violates the U.S. Constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana said.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris overturned an amendment to the state's constitution prohibiting same-sex marriages in response to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Montana by four gay and lesbian couples.
“This case is about equality and basic fairness,” Jim Taylor, legal director for the ACLU of Montana, said in a statement. "All Montanans have an equal right to the legal protections and respect that marriage brings. This ruling takes that constitutional principle of equal protection and makes it a reality in Montana.”
If Morris's ruling is upheld, Montana would become the 35th state to permit gay marriage. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, who defended the state's gay marriage ban, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon.
Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said in May when the lawsuit challenging the ban was filed that he welcomed the action.
"Montanans cherish our freedom and recognize the individual dignity of every one of us. 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," he said at the time.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)