Fair Is Fair

This past weekend was important to me for a number of reasons.

47985_10200301350709797_307221521_nI got to meet and spend some quality time with one of my heroes, Bishop Gene Robinson. (story/interview to follow)

But I also got to meet and spend some quality time with dedicated Montana people who care about equality in our state. Some became even more strongly convinced after watching “Diversity Day” and “Love Free Or Die” presented in local churches.

Even I- a committed partner of the ACLU and the Fair Is Fair Campaign- became inspired after hearing Bishop Robinson speak about the need for Christian compassion and understanding in the face of fear and unintentional ignorance about LGBTIQ persons.

“Our job is to make this an issue of compassion and justice, not theology”, Bishop Robinson said. “We have to make the issue of fairness one that brings a face to mind whenever we talk about equality. This is about people.”

But being inspired is only as good as the actions it produces.

I want to encourage you to bolster the ACLU’s Fair Is Fair campaign by taking your inspiration and desire for justice and take action- by becoming a member.

My family belongs because we believe in the work of the ACLU. We believe it is important to support a coalition of organizations to bring full equality to all Montanans- but that only works if we all come together. The Montana ACLU is helping to make that happen, and I’m proud to be a supporting member.

I hope you’ll join us.

~Greg

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Please Share Your Story With Fair is Fair MT

The Fair is Fair campaign, a project of the ACLU of Montana, is dedicated to increasing public support for domestic partnerships by telling the stories of real couples who have been denied equal protection because their relationships are not legally recognized.
We are looking for same-sex couples who are willing to share their stories about how they have been denied basic protections afforded to other families.
 
MainLogo21If you are in a committed relationship with a same-sex partner and you have experienced difficulties (tax problems, pension issues, problems related to caring for children or making medical decisions for your family, or any other types of difficulties) because your relationship isn’t legally recognized, please e-mail me at niniab@aclumontana.org.
 
All communications will be handled as confidential by the ACLU.
 
Right now, loving, committed same-sex couples and their children still don’t have the protections they need to live their own lives in Montana.  The ACLU has brought a lawsuit, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, to win equal protection for same-sex couples.  Court cases are important, but to win lasting fairness for gay and lesbian couples we need to convince not just the courts but also the general public that Montanans need domestic partnerships.
 
Please don’t pass up this opportunity to tell your story and to help Fair is Fair change hearts and minds.
 

Montana Supreme Court Allows Domestic Partnership Case for Same-Sex Couples To Move Forward

 

 

 

Justices reverse dismissal of case by the district court and allow litigation to proceed

 

 

 

011: Card-Carrying

 (Photo credit: vociferous.)

 

HELENA, MT — The ACLU and plaintiffs, six loving, committed same-sex couples, will move forward with efforts to secure domestic partnership protections in light of a Montana Supreme Court decision, which in part granted their appeal in Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana from a dismissal of the case by the district court.

 

Though the court denied the plaintiffs’ initial appeal as too broad, the justices said the ACLU could move forward with more narrowly tailored efforts to secure equal treatment for same-sex couples in the state.

 

“Three of the justices said they would have granted same-sex couples recognition as domestic partners now. The majority also made clear that the decision to remand the case for additional proceedings in the lower court was based on technical issues, not on the substance of our argument that the Montana Constitution mandates equal treatment of all people,” said ACLU of Montana Legal Director Jon Ellingson. “They said that while we could not challenge the omission of same-sex couples from all of the statutes involving the rights of married couples in one case, we can challenge those statutes individually. We plan to do just that.”

 

The opinion states: “It is this Court’s opinion that Plaintiffs should be given the opportunity, if they choose to take it, to amend the complaint and to refine and specify the general constitutional challenges they have proffered.”

 

“We’re encouraged by the decision because the justices said that we could pursue the protections we are seeking,” said Mary Leslie, who lives with her partner, Stacey Haugland in Bozeman. “Legal protection is essential, not just for our families, but for all same-sex couples. We won’t stop until every loving couple is treated fairly.”  Leslie lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident. Another plaintiff, Denise Boettcher of Laurel, was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died.

 

In his dissent from the majority, Justice James Nelson wrote that same-sex couples should be given full protection now, saying the case, “concerns the right of committed intimate same-sex couples to receive the same civil protections which the State makes available to committed intimate different-sex couples. Plaintiffs assert, and rightly so, that their government may not single out unpopular groups for disfavored treatment, as the State of Montana has done here… I have never disagreed more strongly with the Court as I do in this case. With due respect, I believe today’s decision… wrongly deprives an abused minority their civil rights.”

 

Nearly 1,500 Montanans and more than 100 Montana-owned businesses have signed on in support of domestic partnerships, and more are signing on each day. Sixty-six Montana religious leaders signed onto an amicus brief supporting the ACLU’s appeal. Even more clergy signed a statement supporting the rights of same-sex couples.

 

“Montanans believe all their neighbors deserve dignity and respect,” said Rev. Marc Stewart, a Montana/Northern Wyoming United Church of Christ Conference Minister. “We believe that loving, committed couples should be able to fully live their own lives and have the protection of the state.”

 

Plaintiffs in the case are Mary Anne Guggenheim and Jan Donaldson of Helena, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte and Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel. All say they will continue working with the ACLU to pursue legal recognition of their lifelong commitments to each other.

 

In addition to Ellingson, the couples are represented by Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; James Goetz and Ben Alke of Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin P.C.; Betsy Griffing; and Ruth Borenstein and Neil Perry of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.

 

Additional information about the case can be found at http://www.aclumontana.org and http://www.aclu.org/mtpartnerships.

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: Supreme Court will hear DOMA discrimination case and Proposition 8 case in 2013

From Freedom To Marry:

By Adam Polaski
Dec 07, 2012 at 03:25 pm

Moments ago, the Supreme Court announced in an order that it has decided to hear the Proposition 8 case and a challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Now, the Court must schedule the cases for oral arguments, which are likely to be heard in the spring of 2013. We should hear final news on rulings in both cases by June of 2013.

Our founder and president Evan Wolfson reflected on the news that the Supreme Court will hear Windsor v. United States, one of the key challenges to DOMA:

By agreeing to hear a case against the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the Court can now move swiftly to affirm what 10 federal rulings have already said: DOMA’s  ‘gay exception’ to how the federal government treats married couples violates the Constitution and must fall. When it comes to the whole federal safety net that comes with marriage – access to Social Security survivorship, health coverage, family leave, fair tax treatment, family immigration, and over 1000 other protections and responsibilities – couples who are legally married in the states should be treated by the federal government as what they are: married.

With the clock now ticking on a Supreme Court marriage decision in 2013, it is more urgent than ever that we make the same strong case for the freedom to marry in the court of public opinion that our advocates are making in the courts of law. With momentum from Election Day victories for the freedom to marry in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington, the way to maximize our chances of winning in court over the next several months is to win more states and win over more hearts and minds. We can show the justices that when they do the right thing, it will stand the test of time and be true to where the American people already are.

He also commented on the Court’s decision to hear the Proposition 8 case, Hollingworth v. Perry:

Gay and lesbian couples in California – and indeed, all over the country – now look to the Supreme Court to affirm that the Constitution does not permit states to strip something as important as the freedom to marry away from one group of Americans.

Windsor v. United States dates back to November 2010, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Edie Windsor, the 83-year-old widowed lesbian from New York who sued the government for the $363,000 in estate taxes that she was forced to pay under DOMA following the death of her late partner Thea Spyer in 2010. Windsor and Spyer were together for more than 40 years and wed in Canada in 2007. Because of DOMA, their marriage was not respected by the federal government.

In June 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones sided with Windsor by ruling DOMA’s Section 3 – which explicitly restricts marriage to different-sex couples – unconstitutional. In October 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld that lower ruling, and the case was subsequently petitioned to be heard by the nation’s highest court.

The Proposition 8 case, Hollingworthy v. Perry (formerly Perry v. Brown) dates back to March 2009, when the American Foundation for Equal Rights filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Prop 8, which passed in California on November 4, 2008, is a citizens’ initiative that repealed the freedom to marry in the state, overturning a May 2008 decision from the California Supreme Court legalizing marriage for same-sex couples across the state.

You can help Freedom to Marry create the climate for pro-marriage decisions in both the Prop 8 trial and the DOMA trial. Tell us that you’re on the Right Side of History by DONATING TODAY. 

Yeah, I left the donation link in for a reason….
Help if you can.
~G

Alaska Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Same-Sex Couples Case

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under L...

English: The inscription Equal Justice Under Law as seen on the frieze of the United States Supreme Court building (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the Anchorage Daily News:

The Alaska Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in an appeal from the state over an Alaska taxation policy that treats same-sex couples differently from straight couples.

Last year, a superior court judge ruled same-sex couples are entitled to the same senior citizen and disabled veteran property tax exemptions as married couples, saying a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman doesn’t trump equal protection laws.

Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner said in his September 2011 decision that the state’s marital classification violates the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection clause.

The state did not sufficiently distinguish this case from a 2005 Alaska Supreme Court ruling that addressed discrimination based on sexual orientation, Pfiffner said. In that case, brought by the Alaska American Civil Liberties Union, the court said state and municipal same sex employees could not be denied partner benefits given to married couples.

 

Helena: To Discriminate or To Not Discriminate?

An attempt at a discrimination graphic.

An attempt at a discrimination graphic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you know gay, lesbian, bi and transgender Montanans are not protected under state law in the workplace, or in buying and renting a home?

 

The City of Helena is moving forward with a non-discrimination ordinance that would protect LGBT people who live, work and visit within the city limits.
You can sign the petition with just a couple clicks!

 

Visit http://www.mhrn.org/helena/ today.

 

Share Your Story- Montana LGBT Couples Needed

SHARE YOUR STORY 

The ACLU of MT needs your help to
make domestic partnerships a reality in Montana!

Real families with real stories

will help us convince the public that same-sex couples need

equal protection to safeguard our families in times of crisis. 

For more information

read the ACLU memo below

or write to

ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator Ninia Baehr at niniab@aclumontana.org.

English: No Homophobia logo

English: No Homophobia logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Montana, the state government offers legal protections to couples and families that help them care for one another. Right now, these protections are only available to couples who get married. This means that opposite-sex couples are eligible for the safeguards offered by the state, because they are able to marry. But loving, committed couples of the same sex are left without the protections they need to care for one another in times of crisis, and that’s not fair.

The Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people. That’s why the ACLU of Montana is suing on behalf of same-sex couples who have been denied the ability to take care of each other and their families. In the lawsuit Donaldson and Guggenheim v. Montana, the plaintiffs are asking the state to create a domestic partnership registry that would grant them access to the safeguards that are currently only available through marriage. Here are a few of the ways the plaintiffs have been discriminated against:

  • Mary Leslie of Bozeman lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.
  • Denise Boettcher of Laurel was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died.
  • When Mary Anne Guggenheim of Helena had a hip replacement, a health care provider would not speak to her long-time partner Jan Donaldson without a release.

Lawsuits like Donaldson and Guggenheim are important, but to win lasting fairness for gay and lesbian couples we need to convince not only the courts but also the general public that Montanans need domestic partnerships. Our public education campaign, Fair is Fair, highlights the real stories of real people who have been denied equal protection. We are looking for same-sex couples who are willing to share their stories about how they have been denied basic protections afforded to other families. We are especially interested in hearing from couples who have been denied one of the following rights:

 The right to make medical decisions for their partner if s/he is incapable of doing so

 Inheritance rights or the right to determine burial arrangements

 The right to family medical or bereavement leave

 Priority to become the court-appointed guardian for an incapacitated partner

Have you had experiences like these?

If so, please e-mail me at niniab@aclumontana.org or call (406) 579- 8884. ACLU staff will listen and talk with you to explore whether your story might be a good fit with the Fair is Fair campaign. We will keep your information confidential unless and until you feel comfortable telling your story publicly. For more information about the Fair is Fair campaign go to www.fairisfairmontana.org. And please do pass this on if you know a couple who might be interested. Don’t miss this opportunity to make your voice heard!