While California’s Prop 8 lawsuit is America’s most sexy attack on same-sex marriage bans, six couples in Montana would like you to know they can’t get G-married either ya know! Is the quickest way to get Montana — where gay marriage was banned in 2004 via constitutional amendment — to recognize same-sex civil unions via court order? That’s what Attorney James Goetz, backed by the ACLU and appearing before District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock, hopes. In Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, the court is being asked to establish civil unions or domestic partnerships to provide gay couples with their constitutionally required rights and protections. Anthony Johnstone (pictured), assistant attorney general of Montana, begs to differ: “Montana law provides spousal benefits to spouses and only spouses.” So yeah, this should wrap up quickly.
“It’s a journey of 1,000 miles and we’re taking the first few steps,” said plaintiff Mike Long. Long and the other plaintiffs say they aren’t asking for the right to marry, but they want to be able to make decisions about their families’ health care, inheritance and burial, and have the ability to file joint tax returns, among other issues.
They say they have been denied those rights in violation of the state constitution’s equal protection and privacy clauses. They asked Sherlock to grant an injunction and require the state to create the statutory framework to give them those protections. “You don’t get to deny those rights based on a policy that infringes on the Montana Constitution,” said Bozeman attorney James Goetz, who spoke for the plaintiffs Tuesday.
The other plaintiffs include: “Jan Donaldson and Mary Anne Guggenheim, of Helena; Kellie Gibson and Denise Boettcher, of Laurel; Nancy Owens and M.J. Williams, of Basin; Long and Rich Parker, of Bozeman; and Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie, of Bozeman.”