In light of the District Court dismissal of the same-sex domestic partnership case Donaldson and Guggenheim vs The State Of Montana in April, The Montana ACLU has filed an appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.
The Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people - and that includes those in same-sex relationships, the appeal argues. Even though Montana is also one of several states that have a constitutional amendment which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the plaintiffs are hoping that "fair and equal treatment" will trump the marriage definition.
As Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director for the Montana ACLU told me today:
Montana's Constitution is clear. Everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law. When our plaintiffs are being denied bereavement leave, access to medical information and death benefits they are not being treated fairly under the law. Montanans support treating same-sex couples fairly and providing them with the legal recognition they need to care for and protect their families. The Montana Supreme Court is the place where we can make that happen for Montana's same-sex couples.
The decision to go to the Supreme Court just makes sense. The Montana Constitution has an obvious discrepancy here. Fair and equal treatment of persons can't be applied arbitrarily - it has to apply across the board - and that includes people in same-sex relationships. Judge Sherlock did not rule on the constitutionality question in April, only that he couldn't order the legislature to make any changes. The Supreme Court is the next logical step to clarify this issue.
Hopefully, it will clarify in favor of gay and lesbian relationship recognition, and not against.