The Freedom to Marry in Montana

Winning Marriage: November 19, 2015

Same-sex couples began marrying in Montana on November 19, 2015 after U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled in favor of the freedom to marry in a federal legal case challenging the state’s anti-marriage laws. The ruling followed a pro-marriage decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which set a precedent for the freedom to marry across the circuit, including in Montana.

History and the Path to Victory:

  • 1997: The Montana Legislature passes a state statute restricting marriage to different-sex couples.  
  • November 2, 2004: Opponents of the freedom to marry in Montana push through Initiative 96, a constitutional amendment denying same-sex couples the freedom to marry and any other legal family status. The amendment cements clearly discriminatory language into the Montana Constitution.
  • 2004-2014: As Americans nationwide engage in conversations about why marriage matters, national and local advocates in Montana take strides toward increasing understanding of same-sex couples and their families.
  • March 2014: Polling in Montana tracks growing support for the freedom to marry, reflecting the power of the national discussion of why marriage matters.
  • May 21, 2014: Same-sex couples and American Civil Liberties Union of Montana file a federal legal case seeking the freedom to marry in Montana, Rolando v. Fox. Read the initial complaint – and meet the plaintiffs
  • October 7, 2014: The United States Court of Appeals in the 9th Circuit rules in favor of the freedom to marry in cases based in Nevada and Idaho. The decision, combined with the U.S. Supreme Court’s October 6 choice to deny review in several pro-marriage federal appellate decisions, sets a precedent that becomes binding across the circuit, including in Montana.
  • November 19, 2014: U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, bound by the 9th Circuit precedent, rules in favor of the freedom to marry in Montana, and same-sex couples begin getting married immediately. Read the ruling.
  • June 26, 2015: The United States Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, ending marriage discrimination across the country.

Groups That Actively Worked on Marriage

  • The ACLU of Montana led the legal challenge seeking to overturn the state's constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marriage.
  • Freedom to Marry was the campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.