Lawsuit looks at legal protections for same-sex domestic partners

GALLATIN COUNTY

POSTED: 6:46 PM Mar 25 2013   UPDATED: 8:58 PM Mar 25 2013
Mike Long Richard Parker
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Mike Long and Richard Parker have been together for 11 years, and say it's tough being together without any legal recognition. So they're hoping to change that.

"ACLU is looking at court cases that would allow same-sex couples equal access under the law," Long said.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the state. Long and Parker are plaintiffs, and say out of the 200 legal protections married couples are recognized for, they think same-sex domestic partnerships like theirs deserve to have access to at least some.

That way, partners can have access to legal benefits.

"Items like retirement benefits, if one were to pass on," Parker said.

They said they're in the process of defining which rights, which they'll present to the Supreme Court.

Ninia Baehr with the ACLU said they won't challenge the Montana Constitution, which defines marriage as between a man and woman. But she believes it's within the constitution to give same-sex couples like Mike and Richard those legal protections.

"Domestic partnership would bring real protections to real couples now," Baehr said.

She also said access to those rights would give couples symbolic recognition.

"Knowing that you are not viewed as strangers to one another -- legally that you are recognized as being a loving, committed couple is very important," she said.

Long and Parker said it's exciting to see what's happening on a national level with the Supreme Court, but they're hoping to make strong steps statewide.

"It would be massive to be able to be recognized and thought of as equal," Long said.