A Helena judge has ruled against six gay couples seeking the same legal protections as married couples.
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock ruled Tuesday that an amendment to the Montana Constitution that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has already settled the question.
He says the question of granting gay couples the benefits, without allowing them to get married, is best left to the legislative process.
The gay couples weren't asking for the right to marry in the lawsuit against the state. Rather they wanted be able to make burial, health care and other decisions, while enjoying such benefits as jointly filing taxes.
The attorney general's office countered that Montana can't extend spousal benefits to gay couples because those benefits are limited to married couples by definition.