Saturday, December 11, 2010

Montana marriage amendment likely unconstitutional

With support from the American Civil Liberties Union, seven couples filed their landmark lawsuit challenging the implications of Montana's 2004 amendment to the state constitution citing a "chilling effect" on couples' rights to due process. 

In November, Montana's Democratic Attorney General, Steve Bulllock, filed a motion to dismiss.  The case is a no-win for Bullock, a likely 2012 gubernatorial primary contender with strong support in the most Liberal pockets within the party.  With California's Prop 8 likely doomed, the constitutionality of Montana's  Initiative 96 crashes into question.

The Helena Independent Record reports that an attorney for the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment in Lewis and Clark District Court on Friday:

“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.” Plaintiffs include Jan Donaldson and Mary Anne Guggenheim of Helena; Kellie Gibson and Denise Boettcher of Laurel; Gary Stallings and Rick Wagner of Butte; Nancy Owens and M.J. Williams of Basin; Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman; Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman; and Casey Charles and David Wilson of Missoula.  Bullock’s office is reviewing the newest motion, but declined to comment further.  A hearing on the motions before District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock is set for Jan. 25, 2011. If the case proceeds to trial, the ACLU expects that to take place in July 2011, but noted it’s likely that the case will end up before the Montana Supreme Court in the next few years.

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