66 clergy submit an amicus brief to Montana Supreme Court in support of domestic partnerships

TiP and the ACLU of Montana appreciate the religious leaders who told the Montana Supreme Court that they support fairness By Ninia Baehr, ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator

During the Fair is Fair Tour this fall, from Billings to Bozeman, Butte to Missoula, Kalispell to Great Falls and in Montana’s capital city of Helena, the TiP team – Rev. Gil Caldwell and Marilyn Bennett – joined ACLU of Montana staff in talking with clergy and lay people about how communities of faith can promote fairness. Although many of the people we talked to held differing theological understandings of sexual orientation, most came to agree that all Montanans deserve equal rights and protections under the law.

During and immediately after the tour, 20 additional priests, ministers and other clergy members (103 total as of today) signed the Clergy Statement of Support for the ACLU's domestic partnership lawsuit Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana. Lay people also requested, and participated in drafting, a People of Faith Statement.

The tour’s timing was fortuitous. The ACLU of Montana appealed on Nov. 14 a District Court decision dismissing the Donaldson case. Now the matter rests with the Montana Supreme Court.

Now religious leaders are letting the Montana Supreme Court know their views on domestic partnership. On Nov. 21, 66 Montana clergy submitted an amicus (friend of the court) brief to the Montana Supreme Court in support of domestic partnership. Their brief explains that the state’s failure to recognize gay and lesbian relationships harms loving, committed couples because it leaves them vulnerable to being treated as legal stranger during times of illness, emergency or death and violates their constitutional rights to privacy, dignity, and the pursuit of safety, health and happiness.

The state of Montana has until mid-January to file its response to the ACLU’s appeal brief. A trial could follow later in 2012. In the mean time, clergy and people of faith have an important role to play in promoting fairness for all Montanans, including gays and lesbians.

For more information on what you can do contact Ninia at niniab@aclumontana.org.