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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in the United States

Part 1: In Montana, from 2004 until 2014-OCT:

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In this web site, the acronym "LGBT" refers to the Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual community.

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U.S. map with Montana highlighted Status of state recognition of same-sex relationships in Montana as of 2014-OCT-01:

A 2004 amendment to the Montana Constitution bans recognition of marriages and civil unions by same-sex couples. Such couples are considered by the state as "legal strangers" -- as mere roommates. Their relationship is not recognized by the government. As a result, they have few protections for themselves and their children.

This treatment of same-sex couples may have been influenced by the belief of many religious and social conservatives that if same-sex marriage or civil unions were made available to the general public then heterosexuals might be more likely to choose to enter into same-gender sexual relationships or to try experimenting with same-gender sexual activity and become addicted to it. Such arguments are rejected by the LGBT community, most religious and social liberals, therapists, and human sexuality researchers. They view sexual orientation as typically discovered -- not chosen -- before adulthood. They view homosexuality as a normal, natural, and unchangeable orientation for a minority of humans.

Studies have concluded that about 5% of adults have a homosexual orientation and another 5% are bisexuals.

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2003 to 2014: Timeline of efforts to have same-sex couples' relationships recognized in Montana:

  • 2003-APR: The commissioners of Missoula County approved a domestic partnership registry. It went into effect on 2003-JUL-01. 1

  • 2004-NOV: Voters passed Initiative 96. This was a citizen initiative that amended the Montana Constitution to ban marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. The vote was about 63% in favor of, and 37% opposed to, the ban. This was a ratio of almost 2 to 1 against marriage equality at the time.

State Representative Jeff Laszloffy (R) said that the passage of the Initiative reflected:

"... a passion for the family and a desire on behalf of the people to make this decision, and not have same-sex marriage mandated by the courts." 2

He reference to mandating apparently referried to the situation in Massachusetts where state courts had required the legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples in that state were the first Americans to marry anywhere in the country earlier in 2004.

Karl Olson, executive director of PRIDE -- a pro-equality group -- said that the initiative's passage was:

"... just going to be a blip in the longer-term historic view. Our constitution isn't going to be able to sustain this kind of restriction on civil rights. Eventually it's going to be trounced, either by the U.S. Supreme Court or another citizen initiative." 2

Marriage inequality turned out to be more than a temporary "blip." It endured in Montana for a decade.

  • 2009-FEB: A bill to create a system of domestic partnerships for same-sex couples was introduced to the state Legislature. This would have given registered same-sex couples a few of the rights that a civil union or same-sex marriage have provided in other states. Included were guarantees of visitation access to each other in hospitals and the ability to own of joint property. The bill died in committee during 2009-APR. 3

  • 2012-OCT: The general convention of the Diocese of Montana of the Episcopal Church, USA voted to allow its congregations in the state to bless same-sex partnerships. This was not viewed as a form of marriage. The Rev. Terry Ann Grotzinger said:

    "There was no associated intent to link to anything else. For us, it was a question of who are we as a people, and is this something we believe. We’re an open and inclusive community, that’s what we’ve always been. If they want a blessing, they come talk to me, just like any other committed relationship. There’s preparation involved and things that have to be done."

    Other mainline and liberal faith groups in Montana also bless the relationships of same-sex couples, including Reform Judaism, and the United Church of Christ. Such blessings had no legal significance because of the voter-passed Initiative 96 of 2004.

  • 2013-JUL: The City Council of Missoula, MT approved a domestic partnership registry which went into effect on 2013-OCT-01. 1

  • 2013-OCT: A Montana State University-Billings poll found that a plurality of the respondents -- 46.6% -- supported same-sex marriage, while 42.6% were opposed, and 10.8% were undecided. If Initiative 96 were voted upon today, it would probably fail.

  • 2014-MAY: Four same-sex couples launched a lawsuit in federal District Court on MAY-21 to have Montana's ban on same-sex marriages declared unconstitutional. It is "Rolando v. State of Montana," or "Rolando v. Fox." Plaintiffs are: Angie and Tonya Rolando of Great Falls, Shauna and Nicole Goubeaux of Billings, Ben Milano and Chase Weinhandl of Bozeman and Sue Hawthorne and Adel Johnson of Helena, MT. One of the couples is unmarried and wants to marry in Montana. The other three have previously been married out-of-state and want their marriages recognized in Montana. They are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. "Fox" refers to Montana's Attorney General, Tim Fox [R],

The plaintiffs seek:

    "... the freedom and dignity afforded to other Montanans, but also the legal protection, duties, and benefits that marriage affords to the welfare of society and individual happiness." 7,9

The defendants in the case are the state Attorney General Tim Fox, state Revenue Director Mike Kadas, and Cascade County Clerk of Court Faye McWilliams, in their official capacity as state or county officials. 7

  • 2014-JUL: Hearings were held for the Rolando v. Fox case. The state asked U.S. District Judge Brian Morris to uphold Montana's 2004 constitutional amendment that states:

    "Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."

    State attorneys claimed that the defendants:

    "... affirmatively allege that plaintiffs cannot state a claim based upon sex discrimination because men and women, regardless of sexual orientation or preference, are treated the same. Neither men nor women can marry persons of the same gender." 7

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Events during the first half of 2014-OCT:

On OCT-07, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a combined ruling for two nearly identical lawsuits. They are Latta v. Otter in Idaho and Sevcik v. Sandoval in Nevada. 4 The court considered the two rulings in federal District Courts and ruled that the bans on marriage by same-sex couples in the state Constitutions of Idaho and Nevada were unconstitutional. The plaintiffs in those two cases had sought the right for all qualified same-sex couples to:

  • marry in their state, and

  • be legally married out-of-state, and have their marriages recognized in their state, subject only to the usual age and genetic closeness criteria.

These, of course, are rights that qualified opposite-sex couples have always enjoyed, everywhere in the U.S.

The three adjacent states of Idaho, Montana, and Nevada are all under the jurisdiction of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, along with six other states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington state.

The 9th Circuit Court's panel ruled unanimously that the same-sex marriage bans in the Idaho and Nevada state Constitutions are unconstitutional on the now familiar grounds that they violated the due process and equal protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment . 1 Since mid-2013, dozens of state courts and federal District Courts as well as four Circuit Courts had overturned bans on same-sex marriage on the same 14th Amendment grounds.

The state of Idaho requested stays of the 9th Circuit Court's ruling from the Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Both were denied. The states of Idaho and Nevada decided to not appeal the 9th Circuit Court ruling. It would have been a waste of taxpayer money because, on OCT-06, the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to consider almost identical appeals from the 4th, 7th and 10th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals.

Same-sex couples were able to obtain their marriage licenses in Nevada on starting on OCT-07 and in Idaho starting on OCT-15. 6

The Freedom to Marry web site states:

"The decision also paved the way for the freedom to marry in Alaska, Arizona and Montana. A judge ruled in Alaska's marriage case on October 12, 2014, striking down the state's ban, and a judge in Arizona's marriage case ruled the same week.  6

However, Montana's Attorney General Fox refused to acknowledge court precedents. He required a specific court ruling that directly deals with Montana's constitutional amendment.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Recognition of same-sex unions in Montana","Wikipedia, as on 2014-OCT-23, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "Montanans pass ban on gay marriages," USA Today, 2004-NOV-03, at: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/
  3. "Montana House Bill 590,"Legiscan, 2009, at: http://legiscan.com/
  4. Susan Latta et al. v. C.L. Otter et al., United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, 2014-OCT-07, at: http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/
  5. Rob Chaney, "Montana equality advocates pursue alternate path to fight same-sex marriage ban," Missoulian, 2014-MAR-14, at: http://missoulian.com/
  6. "9th Circuit Court," Freedom to Marry, 2014, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
  7. Charles Johnson, "Montana AG asks judge to uphold gay marriage ban," Missoulian, 2014-JUL-18, at: http://missoulian.com/
  8. "Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief," District Court for the District of Montana Great Falls Division, 2014-MAY-21, at: http://www.ypradio.org/
  9. "Montana: Rolando v. Fox," Freedom to Marry, 2014, at: http://www.freedomtomarry.org/
  10. "Montana judge asked to decide on gay marriage," Billings Gazette. 2014-OCT-15, at: http://billingsgazette.com/
  11. "The time for marriage equality in Montana is NOW," American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, 2014-OCT-15, at: http://www.fairisfairmontana.org/
  12. "Federal judge overturns Montana's ban on same-sex marriage," CNN, 2014-NOV-19, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  13. Lauren Raab, "Montana same-sex marriage ban overturned, effective immediately," Los Angeles Times, 2014-NOV-19, at: http://www.latimes.com/
  14. Erik Larson, "Montana Legalizes Gay Marriage, South Carolina to Follow," Bloomberg news, 2014-NOV-20, at: http://www.bloomberg.com/
  15. David Jay, "Billings clerk opts out of issuing same-sex marriage license," KRTV, 2014-NOV-22, at: http://www.krtv.com/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2014-NOV-03
Last updated 2014-NOV-27
Author: Bruce A Robinson
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