Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and both U.S. Senators from the state announced their support for a legal challenge filed Wednesday in federal court challenging the state's ban on marriage for same-sex couples.
"Montanans cherish our freedom and recognize the individual dignity of every one of us," Bullock said in a statement. "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.
Bullock, a Democrat, is not among the defendants listed in the complaint, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox; Michael Kadas, director of the Montana Department of Revenue; and Faye McWilliams, Clerk of Court of Cascade County. But Kadas, who was appointed to the Department of Revenue by Bullock, welcomes the lawsuit, a spokesperson said.
"While the Department is tasked with upholding our state's tax laws, I agree with Governor Bullock — the time has come to recognize marriage between loving same-sex couples and to give those couples equality in our tax system," Kadas said in a statement to BuzzFeed.
Along with Bullock, both of Montana's U.S. Senators, John Walsh and Jon Tester, who are both Democrats, also came out in support of the lawsuit.
"No government should stand between two adults who are committed to each other," Walsh said in a statement on Facebook. "After nearly 30 years together, Janet and I understand how important it is to protect this freedom for all Montanans."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana filed the lawsuit, or Rolando v. Fox, in federal court on behalf of four same-sex couples who say the state's ban on marriage equality violates their constitutional rights.
"Montana's exclusion of same-sex couples from the institution of marriage and all that marriage signifies and bestows contrasts sharply with the State's long history of respect for individual liberty," the complaint states. "This history of respect is most eloquently set forth in the Montana Constitution, which was itself established "to improve the quality of life, equality of opportunity, and to secure the blessing of liberty" for all Montanans."
"We really appreciate [Bullock's] support and the support of others who have come out behind the lawsuit," Amy Cannata, communications director at the ACLU of Montana, told BuzzFeed. "The ball is in the defendants' court now."
Attorney General Tim Fox has not announced whether he would defend the state's 2004 voter-approved constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples; however, he was among several attorneys general who signed on to a court brief in support of defending a similar ban in Nevada in February.
A message was left with Fox's office seeking comment.