Montana Judge Rules Against Six Gay Couples Seeking Equal Rights

A Montana judge today ruled against six gay couples seeking "civil unions, domestic partnerships or another system that ensures they're not denied those rights", the AP reports:

MontanaDistrict Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled Tuesday that an amendment to the Montana Constitution that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has already settled the question.

He says the question of granting gay couples the benefits, without allowing them to get married, is best left to the legislative process.

The gay couples weren't asking for the right to marry in the lawsuit against the state. Rather they wanted be able to make burial, health care and other decisions, while enjoying such benefits as jointly filing taxes.

The Billings Gazette reported on the case in January:

The question appears to hinge in part on how the Montana Constitution's marriage amendment, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, is interpreted. State solicitor Anthony Johnstone argued that Montana can't extend spousal benefits to gay couples because those benefits are limited to married couples by definition.

"Montana law provides spousal benefits to spouses and only spouses," Johnstone said.

Originally there were seven couples in the suit (see photo) but one dropped out for personal reasons.

Here's the ACLU's page on the case.


  1. Sargon Bighorn says

    It’s a typical catch 22. You can’t get spousal benefits unless you have a spouse and Gay citizens can not become spouses. And YET, YET no where does the word Gay or Homosexual appear in any of the laws or constitutional amendments. See how subtle bigotry and discrimination can be. The intended victims are not even mentioned.

  2. I'm Layla Miller I Know Stuff says

    The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law

    The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the “letter”) of the law, but not the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not adhering to the literal wording.

    “Law” originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language. Following the letter of the law but not the spirit is also a tactic used by oppressive governments.

  3. kodiak says

    Judge fears for his job, so takes the easy way out. After all, it happened in Iowa. Fear of being labeled an activist judge.

    I wish I could figure out a way to discriminate against heteros and make it stand in court.

  4. Blue says

    I feel sad for the couples in Montana. It’s a beautiful state filled with not so beautiful people. I think they expected this would end negatively against them though, after all we are talking about Montana here. Good luck on any appeals.

  5. Josh says

    Yup that would be the “land of the free” for ya,,, good grief,, when will these people they are being paid by GLBT people and that they are supposed to be public servants,,,well Judge Sherlock, get over yourself and move right along there too the year 2011,,, salem witch trials are over.

  6. Tara says

    So, I am actually from Montana and I am a girl married to a girl. Coming out to my family was not hard. They basically thought that they loved me more than they were not fond of the gay thing so, whatever. And they are great with my wife, they love her like she is a blood relative. I think eventually Montana will have gay rights, I think it just takes time. Maybe, go to some other more liberal states, then go back to Montana and see what happens.

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