Montana patriots join civil rights lawsuit

From The Billings Gazette:

LAUREL — When her 5-year-old son’s grandfather died, Denise Boettcher asked her boss for bereavement leave to take the boy to the funeral across the state. Her request was denied because, she says, her employer does not view her relationship with that side of her son’s family as legitimate. Boettcher and her female partner, Kellie Gibson, jointly adopted [son] Morrgan last year, and it was Gibson’s father who died in April.

If Boettcher and Gibson were married, Boettcher would have qualified for up to two weeks of bereavement leave when Gibson’s father died. But because the women are a same-sex couple, they do not have many of the rights accorded to married couples in Montana.

The experience spurred the Laurel couple to join a lawsuit filed against the state of Montana by the American Civil Liberties Union. Seven Montana same-sex couples signed on to the lawsuit, which was filed last month in Helena District Court. In it, the ACLU argues that denying same-sex couples rights that married couples enjoy violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

The women sealed their relationship with a commitment ceremony in 2001 and consider themselves and their children — in addition to 5-year-old Morrgan, Gibson’s 16-year-old daughter lives with them — to be a regular family.

Fighting for equal rights is worth whatever negative fallout may come from suing the state, they said.

So, the body of law describing marriage as a legal instrument, especially when members of the sectarian clergy acting as officers of the court are parties to binding contracts under the pretext of "marriage," reads like a "chilling effect" on the freedom of religion constraints described by the US Constitution.

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