HELENA, Mont. – A federal judge in Montana on Wednesday overturned the state's gay marriage ban.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled that Montana's constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between a man and a woman violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
"This Court recognizes that not everyone will celebrate this outcome," Morris wrote. "This decision overturns a Montana Constitutional amendment approved by the voters of Montana. Yet the United States Constitution exists to protect disfavored minorities from the will of the majority."
In September, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Idaho and Nevada's bans are unconstitutional. Montana is part of the 9th Circuit, and Morris cited the appeals court's opinion in his ruling.
The move comes after four same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in May challenging Montana's ban. The plaintiffs included Angie and Tonya Rolando.
"Calling Tonya my partner, my significant other, my girlfriend, my perpetual fiancΘe has never done justice to our relationship," Angie Rolando said. "Now I can look forward to the day when I can introduce Tonya as my wife.
"Love won today," she said in a statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. The organization said earlier that it expected the favorable ruling because of the 9th Circuit's finding.
Morris also noted Montana no longer can deprive plaintiffs and other same-sex couples of the chance to marry their loves. He said his ruling was effective immediately.
"The time has come for Montana to follow all the other states within the Ninth Circuit and recognize that laws that ban same-sex marriage violate the constitutional right of same-sex couples to equal protection of the laws," the judge wrote.