Montana Attorney General Tim Fox went out of his way last month to cause trouble for gay couples when he signed a legal brief that invoked the specter of legalized polygamy, out-of-wedlock birth and general moral dissolution to drum up opposition to same-sex marriage.
The first-term Republican signed the brief in support of Nevada officials defending themselves against a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage. In the brief, Fox and 10 other attorneys general offered a litany of reasons why marriage equality is detrimental to society.
They argued, for instance, that the "consequences of altering the traditional definition of marriage could be so severe as to lead to 'an increased percentage of out-of-wedlock children'" and to more instances of single-parent families. They also claimed that same-sex marriage could lead to the legalization of polygamy.
"Once the link between marriage and responsible procreation is severednot simply stretched, but severedand the commonsense idea that children are optimally raised in traditional intact families rejected, there is no fundamental reason for government to prefer couples to groups of three or more," wrote Fox and his peers.
On Feb. 10, however, Nevada officials changed course. Due to a rapidly changing legal landscape, they announced that they would no longer defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Nevada's decision left Fox and his fellow conservative attorneys general in an awkward and isolated position, but Fox still stands by the brief.
"The State's position hasn't changed because Montana's constitution hasn't changed," wrote Fox's spokesman John Barnes in an email.
Gay rights supporters in Montana say Fox's stance belittles the LGBT community.
"I think it is disappointing that an elected official from Montana would sign on to a document that is so dismissive and belittling to so many families across the state," says Jamee Greer, organizing director of the Montana Human Rights Network. "The primary targets were same-sex couples and their families, but this brief goes far beyond, arguing that lesbian, gay and bi Montanans should be locked out of the state institution that offers access to critical benefits and protections."
Greer says that the brief broadly disparages non-traditional families like single parents raising children and couples who have adopted children.
Montana voters approved a similar same-sex marriage ban and added it as an amendment to the state constitution in 2004. In July 2013, the ACLU of Montana filed a lawsuit that seeks to give same-sex couples access to the legal protections that married opposite-sex couples enjoy.This story was updated Thursday, Feb. 20 to correct information relating to Montana's same-sex marriage ban.