ACLU to pursue lawsuit for same-sex couples

Posted by Lindsey Scheetz on

"The ACLU is moving forward with a lawsuit against the state of Montana demanding same-sex couples be granted the same equal protections as married couples. The response comes exactly one month after the state of Montana filed a motion for dismissal in the case.

"It all started in July of 2010 when Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel, along with six other same-sex Montana couples filed a joint lawsuit demanding the same legal protections for gay couples given to married ones.

"Nearly 4 months later, on November 11th, the state responded to the request recommending the case be dismissed. A spokesperson for Attorney General Steve Bullock said that even if the complainant's claims are true, the state is not required by law to extend spousal benefits to couples who are not legally married. Montana's constitution prohibits marriage of same-sex couples.

"Friday, the ACLU responded to the state's argument. 'The marriage amendment is really un-related to and does not control that great large scheme of statements that give opposite-sex couples a whole broad array of protections and benefits,' ACLU Legal Director Betsy Griffing explained.

"Griffing said if the state rules against the same-sex couples, it would be a violation of the state constitution. The ACLU is requesting a district court judge render a summary judgment, without a full trial.

"Six of the seven couples remain in the lawsuit. Griffing said this is the first case of its kind in Montana. There have been similar cases heard in Vermont and New Jersey, both ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.

"District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock is set to decide in January whether the case will go to trial or be dismissed. If he rules for the case to proceed, he can choose to make a summary judgment without a jury or send the case to trial. The trial would then take place in July of 2011."

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