Seven gay couples in Montana filed a lawsuit against the state Thursday for its failure to provide legal protections to gay couples and their families.
In 2004 voters approved a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage or same-sex couple recognition. Under the law gay and lesbian couples can be barred from visiting their partners in the hospital and left out of conversations about emergency medical care, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. Among other benefits that are available to straight couples, state inheritance laws also do not recognize same-sex couples and can leave surviving partners with nothing if their partners die without valid wills.
The couples contend the discrimination violates the state constitution's protections to rights to privacy, dignity, and the pursuit of life's basic necessities as well as its guarantees of equal protection and due process, according to the ACLU, which is representing the plaintiffs.
Kellie Gibson and partner Denise Boettcher are one of the couples involved in the suit.
"Denise has stood with me through 56 brain surgeries and over 300 spinal taps, yet to Montana we're nothing more than strangers," Gibson said in a statement. "Knowing we have legal protections for our family sure would make it easier on both of us the next time I have a medical crisis."