Our seven wonderful "fabuliff" couples seeking equal protection through the ACLU's domestic partnership lawsuit, Donaldson and Guggenheim V. State of Montana, were honored last night with the Montana Trial Lawyers Association's 2013 Citizens Award.

The award (pictured at right) honors each couple "For Their Demonstrated Selflessness, Integrity, Bravery and Remarkable Character and Dedication to Ensure That All Couples in the State of Montana Are Able to Fully Live Their Lives Under Equal Protection of the Law."

Very well said.

All seven couples were given the award. They are: Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, Jan Donaldson and Mary Anne Guggenheim of Helena, Kellie Gibson and Denise Boettcher of Laurel, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte, and Peggy Ash and Kelly Hurston of Belgrade.

They all know the sting of unequal treatment under Montana law and how it can leave them unable to help their beloved partner in a medical emergency, when a family member dies or when it comes time to plan for retirement and even death. When Mary Anne Guggenheim had a hip replacement, the doctor’s office staff would not speak to her partner Jan Donaldson without a release. Denise Boettcher was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died. Mary Leslie lost her home in part because she was ineligible for worker's compensation death benefits when her former partner was killed in an accident and Mary was unable to afford the home on her own.

They are all determined to win a legal remedy which will enable loving and committed same-sex couples like themselves to obtain the protections granted opposite couples who are able to marry.

Stepping into the case has thrust these couples and their families into the limelight, turning their private lives public. Though they have overwhelmingly been supported by family, friends and community members, they have also been the targets of hateful speech and had to worry about repercussions in the workplace, church and other parts of their lives. Even so, all the couples bravely stepped forward because they knew it was the right thing to do.
In addition to being plaintiffs, these amazing couples have also stepped up to serve as ambassadors for lesbian and gay rights across the state, doing countless media interviews, participating in panel discussions and speaking to people one-on-one about their experiences.

We are so delighted that these loving and committed couples are being honored for all they are doing to make sure that same-sex couples across Montana have the same legal protections as opposite-sex married couples. Thank you so much to the Montana Trial Lawyers Association for recognizing them.