News (USA)

Montana Attorney General seeks to dismiss gay rights lawsuit

Montana’s Attorney General has filed a motion seeking to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at granting same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples.

Spousal benefits are limited by definition to married couples, and the Montana Constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, said Attorney General Steve Bullock.

The court does not have the authority to require the state to extend spousal benefits beyond that definition, Bullock said in his motion to dismiss.

The suit, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, claims 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.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), under Montana law, it is possible for same-sex couples to be barred from visiting their partners in the hospital and to be left out of conversations about emergency medical care. Montana inheritance laws refuse to recognize same-sex couples, and can leave surviving partners with nothing if their partners die without valid wills.

The suit, filed in July by the ACLU on behalf of seven same-sex couples, seeks a mechanism such as the domestic partnership laws adopted by several other states to provide similar protections for committed same-sex couples.

Read the Attorney General’s brief here (PDF).

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