Flathead County Court Prepares for Same-Sex Marriage

Flathead County officials are updating their licenses to make them appropriate for gay couples

By Beacon Staff

Following a federal judge’s decision to overturn the state’s gay marriage ban, Flathead County officials are updating their licenses to make them appropriate for same-sex couples, according to the clerk of court.

Peg Allison said the county will issue licenses following the court decision Wednesday afternoon and told the county’s IT staff to modify the marriage license documents “to remove the inappropriate references to male and female” and make them suitable for same-sex couples.

“The process (of getting married) will not change. But my documents will have to be modified,” she said.

Before they are formally changed by IT staff, marriage licenses will have to be modified with Wite-Out, she said.

Allison said her staff would try to properly update the documents as soon as possible.

Jurisdictions across the state are faced with a similar situation following the sudden ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, who ruled that Montana’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between a man and a woman violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Morris said the ruling was effective immediately.

Attorney General Tim Fox said he would appeal the ruling, according to the Associated Press. But Fox spokesman John Barns says the state won’t seek a stay from the court that would block marriages from taking place right away.

The ACLU of Montana announced that celebration ceremonies will be across the state on Thursday in Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Helena and Butte. The events will take place at the courthouses at 8 a.m.

Flathead County is the only county in Montana that allows couples to apply for marriage online. Couples still have to appear at the Flathead County Justice Center in downtown Kalispell to sign the document and pay a $53 fee before receiving a marriage license. The county issues licenses from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Will Randall, the chair of Flathead-based Love Lives Here and chair of the Montana Human Rights Network board, said he is excited about the ruling, and the organization believes there is still work to accomplish in equality for LGBT people in Montana.

“We’re very happy about this step towards equality for our LGBT friends and family,” Randall said. “We still need to work for a statewide nondiscrimination ordinance to protect LGBT people from housing and employment discrimination.”

Montana lawmakers sent out statements after the ruling:

Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester sent out a statement on the ruling:

“I applaud today’s ruling.  It aligns our laws with our values and is a big step forward for our state.  Denying same-sex couples the right to marry denies them happiness and equal protection under the law.”


U.S. Sen. John Walsh:

“Throughout my 36 years of service in the military, as Lt. Governor, and now as U.S. Senator, I’ve been proud to fight for our freedoms.  Today’s overdue court ruling reflects our Montana values of individual freedom, fairness and equality. I believe every Montanan – our sons, daughters, friends and family – should live free of discrimination.”


Gov. Steve Bullock: 

“Today’s decision ensures we are closer to fulfilling our promise of freedom, dignity, and equality for all Montanans. It is a day to celebrate our progress, while recognizing the qualities that bind us as Montanans: a desire to make a good life for ourselves and our families, while providing greater opportunities to the next generation.

I have instructed my administration to quickly take all appropriate steps to ensure that we are recognizing and affording the same rights and responsibilities to legally married same-sex couples that all married Montanans have long enjoyed.”

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