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4 couples suing over Montana’s gay-marriage ban

HELENA, Mont. — Montana on Wednesday joined 28 other states with legal battles over gay marriage, while same-sex couples in Pennsylvania spent their first full day applying for marriage licenses knowing the governor wouldn’t stand in their way.

A federal lawsuit filed by four gay couples in Montana leaves just two states — North Dakota and South Dakota — with gay marriage bans and no legal challenges aiming to overturn them. But that’s likely to change as same-sex marriage advocates there gear up for a legal fight.

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State marriage bans have been falling around the country since the US Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

Gay and lesbian couples can wed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, with Oregon and Pennsylvania becoming the latest to join the list this week when federal judges struck down their bans and officials decided not to appeal.

The Montana couples say their state’s constitutional ban denies gay couples the freedom and dignity afforded to other Montanans and robs them of the legal protections and benefits that come with marriage. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock released a statement supporting their cause, while the state’s Republican attorney general said he would vigorously defend the ban.

Meanwhile, a lesbian couple from Rapid City, S.D., said they also plan to challenge their state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the coming days, along with a provision in federal law that lets states avoid recognizing gay marriages performed elsewhere. Their attorney said he’s contemplating filing a lawsuit in North Dakota, too.

Meanwhile, in Idaho this week, state officials announced they will appeal last week’s decision from a federal judge overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The appeal goes to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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