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Sunday February 7th, 2016 5:42AM

4 couples suing over Montana's gay-marriage ban

By The Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Four gay couples announced Wednesday they are suing Montana over its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, making North Dakota and South Dakota the only two states with similar bans and no lawsuits seeking to overturn them.

The Montana suit was being filed in federal court in Great Falls. It lists as plaintiffs four Montana couples who are either unmarried or who were married outside the state.

The lawsuit alleges the ban denies same-sex couples the freedom and dignity afforded to other Montanans, and denies them the state and federal legal protections and benefits that come with marriage.

"We want Aden to grow up knowing that we are a family like any other family," plaintiff Shauna Goubeaux said in a statement of her and wife Nicole's 1-year-old son. "Marriage is part of being a family. By being plaintiffs in this case, we are showing him his mommies will stand up for what is right and stand up for him."

In addition to Shauna and Nicole Goubeaux, the plaintiffs are Angie and Tonya Rolando; Ben Milano and Chase Weinhandl; and Sue Hawthorne and Adel Johnson.

Gov. Steve Bullock released a statement in support of the couples.

"Montanans cherish our freedom and recognize the individual dignity of every one of us," he said. "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."

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

After Montana's lawsuit, only North Dakota and South Dakota will remain as having a gay marriage prohibition that isn't under review, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Montana voters in 2004 approved a state constitutional amendment providing that only a marriage between one man and one woman is valid or recognized as a marriage in the state.

An attorney for the couples, Elizabeth Gill, said in a statement "it's time for Montana to join the march toward equality for all loving and committed couples across the country."
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