In a landmark 6-1 decision, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled that the lesbian ex-partner of a woman is entitled to share in the parental rights over the children legally adopted by the woman during their relationship.
While a state Supreme Court decision Tuesday on a former same-sex couple’s parental rights didn’t directly address homosexual rights in Montana, Justice James Nelson did – in the strongest of language. In his specially concurring decision, Nelson denounced discrimination against gays and lesbians as “bigotry” and called it “a prevalent societal cancer grounded in bigotry and hate.” “I remain absolutely convinced … that homosexuals are entitled to enjoy precisely the same civil and natural rights as heterosexuals, as a matter of constitutional law,” he wrote. Nelson sided with the 6-1 majority that upheld a ruling giving parental rights to a Missoula woman who had been in a 10-year lesbian relationship that included two children legally adopted by the other woman in the partnership. The other woman had left the relationship and married a man, and did not want to grant parental rights to her former lesbian partner. The court ruled that the former partner has a “parental interest” in the children and a right to joint custody. Nelson said the case shows that until the courts recognize homosexuals as “equal participants with heterosexuals in our society … with exactly the same civil and natural rights, lesbian and gay citizens will continue to suffer homophobic discrimination.”
The Montana Family Association said the decision “damaged the law for natural parents across the state.”