Earlier this summer, Andy posted about seven same-sex couples who are suing the state of Montana to receive the same rights as married heterosexual couples. The ACLU is representing the couples. Reacting to a move last month by Attorney General Steve Bullock to dismiss the case, lawyers for the plaintiffs have filed a motion asking the judge in the case to make a pre-trial judgement.
In a motion for summary judgment filed in Lewis and Clark County District Court Friday, the attorneys say the couples aren't seeking to be married, but simply want the same relationship recognition and abilities afforded to man-woman couples with that status – like decision-making authority in health care and end-of-life situations, filing joint tax returns and transferring assets if a partner dies without a will.
"The state can't distinguish or give protections and benefits to one set of couples and deny it to another," said Betsy Griffing, ACLU of Montana's legal director. "With this motion, what we are saying is that we are entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Griffing added that Friday's motion is in response to a move to dismiss the lawsuit filed in November by Attorney General Steve Bullock. He's argued on behalf of the state that spousal benefits are limited to married couples, which is defined by the Montana Constitution as being between a man and a woman, and the court doesn't have the authority to require the state to extend spousal benefits beyond that definition.
The judge will decide on January 25, 2011 if the case will be dismissed or proceed to trial.
In case you haven't yet read up on the couples involved in the suit, the ACLU has set up a page about them here.