Plaintiffs are private individuals in committed same-sex relationships who brought suit against the State of Montana in 2010 complaining that they are unable to obtain various benefits available to opposite-sex, married couples. Represented by the ACLU, plaintiffs expressly challenged only the ...
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Plaintiffs are private individuals in committed same-sex relationships who brought suit against the State of Montana in 2010 complaining that they are unable to obtain various benefits available to opposite-sex, married couples. Represented by the ACLU, plaintiffs expressly challenged only the benefits aspects of marriage-like relationships, and did not seek the right to marry or recognition of their relationships as marriages.
The State District Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and granted Defendant's motion to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiffs had failed to specify exactly which statutes they are challenging, and thus a declaratory judgment on the constitutionality of such alleged discrimination would exceed the bounds of judicial power. The Montana Supreme Court, CJ Mike McGrath, upheld the judgment on this rationale, but remanded the case to the State District Court to allow for amendment of the complaint in line with the dismissal of their claims. Donaldson v. State of Montana, 292 P.3d 364 (Mont. 2012).
The case was decided 4-3, with the three dissenting justices (J. James C. Nelson) proposing to grant a declaratory judgment stating that Montana benefits and other law regarding married couples is discriminatory and unconstitutional. The dissent is extensive.
On July 13, 2013, plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint. They added reference to specific Montana statutes which exclude plaintiff from: receiving various types of financial protection; designating partners as beneficiaries; having authority over end-of-life decisions; and dissolution-of-relationship protections. They add that Montana's statutory definition of marriage "casts uncertainty on Plaintiffs' ability to protect their partners and their relationships and also stigmatizes their relationships." They claim that plaintiffs are excluded from those protections because they are prohibited from entering into marriage by the Montana Constitution, but specify that they do not seek the designation of marriage; rather they "simply seek statutory protections that are offered by the State to similarly situated different-sex couples and their families through the legal status of marriage."
In July 2014, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on their equal protection and related fundamental rights claims. Carlos Torres - 05/18/2013
Nadji Allan - 11/09/2014