A new legal battle taking shape in
Montana is challenging the state on domestic partnerships, not
marriage, for gay and lesbian couples.
The first-of-its-kind lawsuit was filed
Thursday by seven gay couples who are being represented by the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The ACLU is suing the state for
domestic partnerships because Montana has a constitutional amendment
that defines marriage as a heterosexual union.
In its complaint, the ACLU wrote that
denying gay couples of equal protections afforded to heterosexual
couples “constitutes unconstitutional discrimination based on
“It's unfair for same-sex couples who
have made commitments and formed families to be treated by the state
like legal strangers,” Betsy Griffing, legal director for the ACLU
of Montana, said.
“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,”
Several states, including California,
Washington and most recently Nevada, have approved domestic
partnership laws that give gay couples most of the rights and
obligations associated with marriage.
A similar lawsuit is moving forward in
Hawaii, where gay
couples represented by the gay rights group Lambda Legal are suing
the state after Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a gay-inclusive civil
unions law. Hawaii also has a gay marriage ban in place.