Marriage Equality: Where Does Montana Stand?

Montana is a special place. First, I’ll start with how I came to call Montana home. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and barely left until I moved to Minneapolis when I was 18. When I lived in Minneapolis, I attended Aveda Institute and worked at a gay coffee shopowned by a gay couple (it has since been sold and changed a bit). It was a safe place where the LGBTQ community could gather and be their true selves. It was just what I needed after living a very sheltered childhood in a small, midwestern town. For the first time I felt like I fit in somewhere. I have always had a place in my heart for the LGBTQ community, but the town I grew up in was extremely conservative, so I didn’t have the chance to know anyone who was out in the LGBTQ community. It was common in that town to stay in the closet until after moving away.  

I met my husband soon after moving to the Twin Cities. Within a few months, he asked me to move to Bozeman, Montana with him. I had never been to Montana. I pictured dirt roads with cowboys. I thought, “what am I going to do in Montana” but I said yes because I’m always up for an adventure and I wanted to see where this relationship could go. Upon arrival, after a 2-day greyhound bus ride, I was pleasantly surprised. The town of Bozeman is actually very progressive and trendy. I immediately fell in love with the town. I also met a lot of people in the LGBTQ community. It felt like home. 

Montana is a huge state and not all of Montana is like Bozeman. Most of the state is actually very conservative. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Montana since 2014. Since 2014, same -sex couples and families with same-sex parents are eligible for all of the protections available to heterosexual couples. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is now banned state wide. 

When it comes to surrogacy, Montana states that gestational surrogacy is permitted because no statute or published case law prohibits it. Since there are no clear laws this also means that the judge that is presented the pre-birth or post-birth order can deny it. This actually happened with my last surrogacy journey. The judge decided not to grant the pre or post-birth order. She did allow the intended father (because he is the biological father) to be on the birth certificate with me, the gestational surrogate. Since the intended mother had no biological relationship to the child (embryo was created with a donated egg) the judge ordered the intended mother to do a step-parent adoption. This happened just recently, in 2019! 

When I gave birth to my last gestational surrogate baby in 2016, for two gay dads, the post-birth order was granted without issue. We didn’t have a pre-birth order in place in Montana because I was supposed to travel to Colorado for the birth at 36 weeks, but the baby decided to be born at 34 weeks. I lived in Colorado when I started the surrogacy journey and the pre-birth order was completed there. My husband ended up getting a job in Montana and we moved mid-pregnancy. I remember the dads being nervous about having a baby in Montana. They didn’t know what to expect and if it would all work out. They ended up being well taken care of by everyone involved; the hospital staff, lawyers and courts. 

Over the years, I have realized that more people than not have a negative view of Montana. Sure, most people know that it’s beautiful, but a lot of people don’t know that there are some really progressive cities that are very welcoming to all. There are also a lot of really cool activists in this state trying to make it a better place overall. I’m excited about the future of Montana. It’s the only place that has ever felt like home to me. 

Amber Campanelli ~ The Honest Surrogate

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