Out in Montana, Big Sky Country, seven committed same-sex couples have filed a lawsuit against that state for failing to provide legal protections to same-sex couples and their families, which, they say, is 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.
Very wordy, but it boils down to simple discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The goal of this lawsuit is not to allow same-sex marriage, but to 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. The seven couples are seeking the protection of state-recognized domestic partnerships, similar to those in place in several other states.
Jan Donaldson, one of the plaintiffs, on her 27-year relationship with her partner, Mary Anne Guggenheim: “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. 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 state 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. In addition, Montana inheritance laws refuse to recognize same-sex couples, and can leave surviving partners with nothing if their partners die without valid wills.
Plaintiffs in the case Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana are Jan Donaldson and , a Mary Anne Guggenheim of Helena, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte, Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel, and Casey Charles and David Wilson of Missoula.
They aren’t asking for the world, just to have their families, and themselves treated like everyone else.