HELENA, Mont. (AP) — 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 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. Now, in 29 states, judges are being asked whether gays should have the right to marry.
"At this point, I don't think that it matters, whether you're first or last. I don't think it matters at all. I think what matters is that we're all sending a message to either the Supreme Court or the legislators in Washington, D.C., that this has got to stop," Nancy Rosenbrahn of Rapid City, South Dakota, told The Associated Press Wednesday.
She and Jennie Rosenbrahn married in April in Minneapolis, and plan to sue in South Dakota to overturn that state's gay marriage ban.
In 19 states and the District of Columbia, gay couples can already wed, 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.
But opposition in some places remains strong. A spokesman for Montana Attorney General Tim Fox said he will vigorously defend the state's constitutional ban against the lawsuit brought by four gay couples.
In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert said at a news conference Thursday he also is committed to defending his state's ban, and he blasted decisions against doing so by leaders in other states.
"For elected officials, governors or attorney generals, to pick and choose what laws (they) will enforce I think is a tragedy, and is the next step to anarchy," Herbert said. "We have an obligation as a state to defend those laws."
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 from 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.