HELENA, Mont. (AP) — 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.
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.
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 Gov. 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, South Dakota, 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.
Here's a look at where things stand with other legal challenges across the country:
A state judge in Arkansas' largest county earlier this month struck down the state's gay marriage ban, saying the state has "no rational reason" for preventing gay couples from marrying. The state Supreme Court brought the marriages to a halt and is weighing state officials' appeal.
State officials announced this week they will appeal last week's decision from a federal judge overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban. The appeal goes to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
State attorneys have asked the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago to review a federal judge's recent order requiring Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of a lesbian couple in which one woman is terminally ill. That ruling applies just to one couple — not to others who were legally wed elsewhere and are seeking to have Indiana recognize their marriages.
After a federal judge ordered Kentucky to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, attorney general Jack Conway said he would not defend the state's law. But, the state has hired outside attorneys to handle the case and is appealing to 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which has not yet scheduled a hearing.
The 6th Circuit is reviewing Michigan's same-sex marriage ban that was overturned by a federal judge in March following a rare trial that mostly focused on the impact of same-sex parenting on children. Arguments have not been scheduled.
Eight gay couples are challenging Nevada's voter-approved 2002 ban that was upheld by a federal judge in 2012. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco hasn't scheduled arguments yet. Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is refusing to defend the ban.
The 6th Circuit appeals court is reviewing two gay marriage cases from Ohio. The first involves recognizing gay marriages on death certificates, and the second involves an order for Ohio to recognize all out-of-state marriages. Arguments have not been scheduled in either case.
A federal judge ordered the state to recognize three same-sex couples' marriages while their lawsuit against the state works through the courts. Tennessee officials are appealing the preliminary injunction to the 6th Circuit.
A federal judge declared the state's ban unconstitutional, issuing a preliminary injunction. The state is appealing to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans.
Utah and Oklahoma
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver is reviewing same-sex marriage bans that were overturned by federal court judges in these two states. The appeals court heard arguments on both cases in April, and a ruling is expected soon. Utah and Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly passed the bans in 2004.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard arguments this month about Virginia's overturned ban and is expected to rule soon. Virginia's attorney general, Mark Herring, is one of seven in the country who has refused to defend a state gay marriage ban. A county clerk who was sued in Virginia is defending the ban.
Other states with court cases demanding recognition of gay marriage are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Most lawsuits challenge same-sex marriage bans or ask states to recognize gay marriages done in other states.
McCombs reported from Salt Lake City. Associated Press writer Kevin Burbach in Bismarck, North Dakota, contributed to this report. Follow him on Twitter at @kevinburbach.