KXLH News

Jul 23, 2010 12:30 PM by KXLH News (Helena)

Montana ACLU files lawsuit seeking same-sex protections

The ACLU of Montana claims that same-sex couples are being denied legal protections granted to married couples, and on Thursday, the organization filed suit on behalf of seven couples on Thursday, asking Montana to join other states in recognizing domestic partnerships.

The Montana Constitution bars recognition of same-sex marriage.

ACLU representative Amy Cannata said, "Let's just talk about medical care; some of our plaintiffs have been in situations, have had a medical emergency or been in need of treatment and they have not been able to participate in helping. They've been denied information or told they couldn't be with the person. That wouldn't happen if they had domestic partnership protection."

Another major issue for same-sex couples is inheritance; in the event of a death, if a will is not in place, the surviving partner can be shut out of the inheritance by the deceased partner's family members.

Betsy Griffing, legal director for ACLU Montana, said, “It’s unfair for same-sex couples who have made commitments and formed families to be treated by the state like legal strangers. Lesbian, gay and bisexual Montanans are valuable and productive members of society who should be treated fairly if their partner is in the hospital or dies without a will.”

Plaintiffs in the case Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana are Mary Anne Guggenheim and Jan Donaldson of Helena, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte, Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel, and Casey Charles and David Wilson of Missoula.

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