Domestic partnerships for Montana

The Montana Constitution guarantees that all people, including gay and lesbian couples, should be treated equally and fairly. Those are values that Montanans hold dear. People should be treated with dignity and allowed to live their lives freely.

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In July 2013, the ACLU of Montana filed an amended complaint, challenging specific statutes that treat same-sex couples unconstitutionally.

In December 2012, the Montana Supreme Court denied the ACLU’s appeal challenging every state statute excluding committed same-sex couples from protections granted to opposite-sex, married couples, but the Justices said the ACLU could move forward with statute-specific efforts to secure equal treatment for same-sex couples in the state. The amended complaint does just that.

Plaintiffs in the case have been hurt by statutes that treat committed same-sex couples differently than married couples. Mary Leslie of Bozeman lost her home in part because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her former partner was killed in a workplace accident. Another plaintiff, Denise Boettcher of Laurel, was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died.

Plaintiffs in the case 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, and Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel.

The couples are represented by ACLU of Montana Legal Director Jim Taylor; Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; Ben Alke and James Goetz of Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin P.C.; and Ruth Borenstein, Stuart Plunkett, Ariel Ruiz and Emily Regier of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.

Support for the case comes from all over the state.

Thousands of Montanans and more than 100 Montana-owned businesses have signed on in support of domestic partnerships, and more are signing on each day. Sixty-six Montana religious leaders signed onto an amicus brief supporting the ACLU’s appeal. Even more clergy signed a statement supporting the rights of same-sex couples.

“Montanans believe all their neighbors deserve dignity and respect,” said Rev. Marc Stewart, a Montana/Northern Wyoming United Church of Christ Conference Minister. “We believe that loving, committed couples should be able to fully live their own lives and have the protection of the state.”

In September 2010, the Bozeman City Commission unanimously passed a resolution supporting our couples and our lawsuit. Thank you, Bozeman!

 

More information:
Questions and answers
Biographies of the couples
Video of Jan and Mary Anne
Video of Mike and Rich
Video of Mary and Stacey

Motion for Summary Judgment – July 2014
Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment – July 2014
Declaration of Benjamin J. Alke in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment – July 2014
Plaintiffs’ Affidavits

Amended Complaint – July 15, 2013

Montana Supreme Court Opinion – December 17, 2012

ACLU Reply Brief Feb. 27, 2012
Brief to Montana Supreme Court

Press release on ACLU’s Supreme Court appeal

Amicus curaie brief by Montana Religious Leaders
Amicus brief from American Psychological Association
Amicus brief from Legal Voice and Montana Human Rights Network
Amicus brief from Gary J. Gates and M. V. Lee Badgett

District Court Decision

Motion for Summary Judgment — Dec. 10, 2010
January 25, 2011 press release.
Brief in support of Motion for Summary Judgment
Affidavit of Suzanne D. Dixon
Affidavit of George Chauncey
Affidavit of Anne Peplau
Affidavit of Christine Kaufman
State combined reply for motion to dismiss and opposing summary judgment
Plaintiffs reply in support of motion for summary judgment

Read the original complaint.

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