There are a couple bills they are looking at. The one that leaped out at me is a measure that would create Vermont-style "civil unions"
The civil union bill would allow straight or gay couples to enter into a legal arrangement that would grant them all the same legal protections of marriage.The interesting thing about this of course is that these civil unions would be created by the legislature, not by a court order - thus eliminating the complaint of "judicial activism" that conservatives like to throw around.
The other interesting thing here is that Montana voters just passed an amendment prohibiting gay marriage this past November. However, unlike many of the state amendments passed in 2004, this one very explicitly only bans marriage, not other possible arrangements. Here is the wording (courtesy of Marriage Equality: State by State, which does a great job of gathering this type of info):
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state"Succinct and to the point. Very Montanan (so I'm told by the Montanan-in-exile in my household). Contrast this with say, the amendment passed right next door in North Dakota:
Marriage consists only of the legal union between a man and a woman. No other domestic union, however denominated, may be recognized as a marriage or givenClearly, if Montana had wanted to draft an amendment that prevented the establishment of civil unions, they could have. They didn't. This gives me great hope for this new bill. Furthermore, although Montana was clearly considered a "red state" in the 2004 elections, it really isn't that simple.
the same or substantially equivalent effect