The Montana Supreme Court ruled that the state must provide lesbian and gay employees of the University of Montana System with the option of purchasing health insurance and other employee benefits for their domestic partners. The ACLU brought a lawsuit in February 2002 on behalf of two lesbian couples and PRIDE, Inc., a Montana based LGBT advocacy organization whose members include employees and domestic partners of employees of the University of Montana System. The lawsuit charged that it was unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples access to health insurance, disability coverage and other benefits available to married employees and even to committed opposite-sex couples that signed an affidavit of common law marriage.
Carol Snetsinger and Nancy Siegel are two of the plaintiffs represented by the ACLU. "We are ecstatic about this decision," Snetsigner said when hearing the news, "It's been a long wait, and now we're thrilled that gay and lesbian employees of the University System will be able to insure their families." Snetsinger works in the biology department at the University of Montana-Missoula, and Siegel is a physical therapist that has no access to group insurance through her employer and has been forced to purchase private insurance that is inferior to and much more expensive than coverage that the married university employees are able to purchase for their spouses.