BY Neal Broverman

October 08 2009 2:20 PM ET

The Montana supreme court has ruled in favor of a lesbian who sued
her former partner for parental rights of the children they helped raise
together.

The 6-1 decision came down Tuesday granting parental rights to Michelle Kulstad of Missoula, who helped raise a boy and a girl with Barbara Maniaci during their 10-year relationship. After the relationship ended in 2006, Kulstad sued to maintain parental rights to the children. Maniaci, the legally adoptive parent of the children, is now married to a man.

The court ruled that Kulstad had established a parental relationship with the children during the course of her partnership with Maniaci, and was worthy of parental rights.

In a special concurrence to the majority opinion, Justice James Nelson advocated strongly for the rights of gay Montanans. "I remain absolutely convinced that homosexuals are entitled to enjoy precisely the same civil and natural rights as heterosexuals, as a matter of constitutional law," Nelson wrote. "Naming it for the evil it is, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is an expression of bigotry. Lesbian and gay Montanans must not be forced to fight to marry, to raise their children, and to live with the same dignity that is accorded heterosexuals."

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