Montana Supreme Court Considers Groundbreaking Same-Sex Rights Case

Helena, MT – As the battle over gay marriage escalates in California, the Montana Supreme Court is reviewing a case with big implications for traditional marriage and parent-child relationships in Big Sky Country.

Like most states, Montana does not recognize same-sex marriage. However, after a same-sex relationship between Dr. Barbara Maniaci and Michelle Kulstad fell apart in 2006, a district judge awarded property and even child custody rights to Kulstad, even though Maniaci was the sole owner of the couple’s residence and sole legal parent of two adopted children. Dr. Maniaci has abandoned the lesbian lifestyle and is now married, but the judge ruled it was in the best interests of her children to continue the non-adoptive former lover’s involvement in their lives. Under the court’s order, Dr. Maniaci cannot travel more than 100 miles with her children without Kulstad’s permission or a court order. Ms. Kulstad also gets joint decision-making in the children’s lives and the ability to claim one as a dependent, as well as custody every Wednesday, every other weekend, summer vacation and Christmas Eve or Christmas – even though she is not their legal parent.

Dr. Maniaci’s attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund are now appealing the district court’s decision to the Montana Supreme Court. Recognizing the potential impact of the case, ADF sought amicus briefs from other organizations, including the Pacific Justice Institute. Having been closely involved with the efforts to preserve traditional marriage in California, PJI was eager to help. This week, PJI affiliate attorney Pete Lepiscopo filed a legal brief urging the Montana Supreme Court to respect traditional parent-child relationships.

Mr. Lepiscopo, of the San Diego firm Lepiscopo & Morrow, commented, What is taking place in Montana should be a wake-up call that what happens in California does not stay in California. The district court’s unconstitutional exercise of power to redefine ‘parent’ will, unless overturned, wreak havoc on this and other families for years to come.”

Brad Dacus, President of Pacific Justice Institute, stated, “The battlefront against traditional marriage keeps expanding. We must be as determined to save marriage as those who will stop at nothing to destroy it.”