Recognition of same-sex unions in Montana
|Legal recognition of
*Not yet in effect
The state of Montana does not recognize same-sex unions.
On November 2, 2004, Montana voters approved Initiative 96, a state initiated constitutional amendment that prohibited the recognition of same-sex marriage, as well as anything "identical or substantially similar to marital status" in the state of Arkansas.
Rolando v. Fox
A lawsuit was filed on May 21, 2014 in Federal Court in Great Falls seeking to end the Montana Constitution’s description of marriage as between one man and one woman by judicial decree. The lawsuit, Rolando v. Fox', seeks to remove not only the constitutional description, but all legal descriptions of marriage constituting only one man and one woman, because, the lawsuit claims, they run contrary to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit includes three couples (Shauna and Nicole Goubeaux, Ben Milano and Chase Weinhandl, Sue Hawthorne and Adel Johnson) already in same-sex marriages affirmed by other states as well as Angela and Tonya Rolando who are not yet married, but hope to be wed in the state of Montana. Governor Steve Bullock has already weighed-in on the lawsuit in support of the plaintiffs. Tim C. Fox will be tasked with defending the State Constitution’s position in his role as Attorney General.
Donaldson v. State of Montana
In July 2010, seven same-sex couples in Montana filed a lawsuit against the state. The suit contends that even with the ban on same-sex marriage, the state constitution's guarantees of privacy, dignity, and the pursuit of life's basic necessities and its guarantees of equal protection and due process require the state to offer same-sex couples the same rights and protections it offers to different-sex couples through marriage. A state District Court heard arguments in January 2011 in the case, Donaldson v. State of Montana. The city of Bozeman backed their suit. The Court ruled against the plaintiffs on April 19, 2011, and the plaintiffs, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) appealed that decision to the Montana Supreme Court on August 4, arguing that the marriage amendment does not preclude providing rights other than the name "marriage" to same-sex couples. On December 17, 2012, that court in a 4-3 decision denied the plaintiffs request to find Montana's entire "statutory scheme" unconstitutional, but invited them to renew their suit in District Court by specifying the statutes they are challenging.
The Montana Supreme Court in Snetsinger v. Montana University System (2004) ruled that the state university's policy of denying insurance coverage to same-sex domestic partners of its gay and lesbian employees violated the state constitution's equal protection requirements. Montana has provided benefits to same-sex partners of state employees since 2005.
In 2009, a domestic partnership bill was proposed. The domestic partnership bill would have provided for basic rights such as hospital visitation access for one's partner and joint property ownership. The bill was swiftly killed in the legislature.
A November 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 37% of Montana voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 51% opposed it and 12% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 62% of respondents supported legal recognition for same-sex couples, with 32% supporting same-sex marriage, 30% supporting civil unions, 35% opposing all legal recognition and 3% not sure.
A May 2012 Public Policy Polling survey found that 41% of Montana voters supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. 48% were opposed, while 11% were not sure. A separate question on the survey found that 64% of respondents supported legal recognition for same-sex couples, with 37% supporting same-sex marriage, 27% supporting civil unions, 32% opposing all legal recognition and 4% not sure.
A February 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 43% of Montana voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 49% thought it should be illegal and 8% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 64% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 38% supporting same-sex marriage, 26% supporting civil unions, 33% opposing all legal recognition and 2% not sure.
A June 2013 Public Policy Polling survey found that 42% of Montana voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 48% thought it should be illegal and 10% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 71% of respondents supported legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 39% supporting same-sex marriage, 32% supporting civil unions, 27% opposing all legal recognition and 2% not sure.
An October 2013 MSU Billings poll found that 46.6% of Montanans support legalizing same-sex marriage, while 42.6% oppose and 10.8% are undecided. It is the first poll in Montana that has found greater support than opposition for same-sex marriage.
- LGBT rights in Montana
- Civil union in the United States
- Domestic partnership in the United States
- Status of same-sex marriage
- Timeline of same-sex marriage
- State Laws Prohibiting Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships
- 40-1-103. Formalities.
- 40-1-401. Prohibited marriages -- contracts.
- CNN: Election 2004 - Ballot Measures, accessed April 7, 2011.
- Garcia, Michelle (2010-07-22). "Gay Montana Couples Sue State". Advocate.com. Retrieved 2010-07-23.
- Billings Gazette: "Gay couples argue for same rights as wedded people," January 25, 2011, accessed April 14, 2011
- KTVM: "Bozeman Commission Backs Same-Sex Couples," September 27, 2010, accessed April 14, 2011
- Independent Record (Helena): Matt Gouras, "Judge rules against gay couples seeking rights," April 21, 2011, accessed April 21, 2011
- KTVM.com: Lauren Maschmedt, "ACLU Takes Same-Sex Case To State Supreme Court," August 4, 2011, accessed August 4, 2011
- Geidner, Chris (December 17, 2012). "Montana Supreme Court Rejects Broad Equal Benefits Claim By Gay Couples". Buzz Feed. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
- Justia.com: Snetsinger v. Montana University System, accessed April 25, 2011
- National Conference of State Legislatures: "States offering benefits for same-sex partners of state employees", accessed April 16, 2011
- HOUSE BILL NO. 590
- HB 590
- Missoula County, Montana approves health benefits for domestic partners
- Missoula City Council Unanimously Approves Same-Sex – Domestic Partner Registration [AUDIO]
- Missoula City Council passes domestic partnership registry resolution
- Schweitzer could win Sen. nom in ’14 but maybe not MT in ‘16
- "Schweitzer's Future". Public Policy Polling. Retrieved 2012-05-15.
- Schweitzer could put Montana in play for 2016 presidential contest
- Even in Montana, Dems prefer Clinton
- The MSU-Billings Poll - October 2013
- "MSUB Poll Surprising Results". KULR 8 News. October 25, 2013.