Via press release from the ACLU of Montana:
Seven committed same-sex couples today filed a lawsuit against the state of Montana for failing to provide legal protections to same-sex couples and their families in violation of the Montana Constitution’s rights of privacy, dignity and the pursuit of life’s basic necessities and its guarantees of equal protection and due process. The goal of this lawsuit is ensure that same-sex couples are able to protect their families with the same kind of legal protections that opposite-sex couples are offered through marriage.
Because there is a constitutional amendment in Montana barring marriage for same-sex couples, the couples in the lawsuit are seeking the protection of state-recognized domestic partnerships, similar to those in place in several other states.
“Mary Anne and I are part of a family unit, bonded by love and mutual respect and a desire to share in a close relationship that benefits not only us, as partners, but our wider family and the entire community,” said Jan Donaldson, a Helena nurse, of her 27-year relationship with her partner, pediatric neurologist Mary Anne Guggenheim. “We depend on one another, in all aspects of our life together. We want to be able to do that with grace and dignity and to feel secure that our relationship will be respected. We want our relationship to be recognized for what it clearly is – a loving commitment of responsibility worthy of security and protection by the state.”
Montana law automatically grants married opposite-sex couples safeguards upon which they can depend in times of need. But, 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. Today’s lawsuit seeks a mechanism such as the domestic partnership laws adopted by several other states to provide similar protections for committed same-sex couples.
On December 31, 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that patients had a right to doctor-assisted suicide. I’ve been told by several sources with Montana connections that the case could have an important bearing on the lawsuit filed today.