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Montana judge dismisses suit by gay couples seeking legal protections

Thursday, April 21, 2011
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A District Court Judge in Montana has ruled to dismiss a case brought by gay couples who were seeking the same legal protections as married couples.

Plaintiffs in Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana (via ACLU)

The suit, filed in July 2010 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of seven gay couples in Montana, said the state failed to offer legal protections to same-sex couples and their families.

The ACLU asked the First Judicial Court in January to recognize same-sex couples as domestic partnerships in Montana to guarantee protection of their rights.

Judge Jeffrey Sherlock’s ruling, filed April 19, states: “…in spite of this Court’s sympathy for the plight of the Plaintiffs this court finds that the state’s motion to dismiss should be granted.”

“This court finds that to be an inappropriate exercise of this Court’s power. Primarily it would violate the separation of powers contained in the Montana Constitution.”

The suit, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, claimed that same sex couples are being denied their rights of privacy, dignity and the pursuit of life’s basic necessities as provided for in the Montana Constitution.

Because there is a constitutional amendment in Montana barring same-sex marriage, the couples in the lawsuit are seeking the protection of state-recognized domestic partnerships, similar to those in place in several other states.

The state Attorney General’s office argued in the case that the marriage amendment binds the court and is now included in the state constitution.

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