HRC Blog

Montana Suit Seeking Equal Rights for Same-Sex Couples Appealed to State Supreme Court

This post comes from Caitlin Downs, HRC Summer 2011 McCleary Law Fellow. Yesterday, the ACLU appealed to the Montana Supreme Court to overturn a lower court’s refusal to grant same-sex couples the same legal protections as married couples. The ACLU filed the domestic partnership case last year on behalf of six same-sex couples living in Montana, arguing that the Montana Constitution guarantees gay and lesbian couples equal treatment under the law. 

A district judge rejected this argument and dismissed the case in April, citing the 2004 voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman as one of the reasons for the decision. However, unlike in states such as Ohio, Michigan, and Virginia, the amendment does not include language prohibiting other forms of relationship recognition. Data from the latest census shows a significant (54 percent) increase in the number of same-sex couples in Montana, bringing the total to 2,295 couples.

Under current Montana law, same-sex couples can be barred from making medical decisions for their partners in the hospital. “Our constitution requires that the state treat couples in committed relationships fairly and equally regardless of whether they are same-sex or different-sex couples,” said ACLU of Montana legal director Betsy Griffing.  “This case is about treating people fairly and humanely, and allowing them to protect their family and loved ones.”

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