Montana Women’s Legal History Timeline

Created by Rita Gibson, Jan White, and Nick Zarnowski for the Montana Historical Society’s Women’s History Matters Project

The purpose of this timeline is simple: to trace the history of territorial and state laws that affected women. We hope that this timeline will inspire more research into the ways that the law impacted Montana women’s lives. To compile the timeline, the authors combed through the indexes of code books published after each legislative session. Copies of the laws they found have been placed in the vertical file “Women—Legislation, Montana,” available for review at the Montana Historical Society Research Center.

Please note that although the authors tried to be thorough in their search, they may have missed some meaningful legislation. Equally, although they tried to be careful in their summaries, none of the authors are lawyers, and legal language is not always easy to interpret. If you notice any errors or omissions, please contact the Montana Historical Society at


Chapter XXII of the Laws, Memorials, and Resolutions of the Territory of Montana passed at the 7th Session of the Legislative Assembly spells out the legal grounds for divorce. Divorce is legal if one member of the marriage has committed adultery, has a preexisting marriage, or is “naturally impotent.” Additional grounds for divorce include habitual drunkenness, absence from the territory for a year with no reason, committing a felony, or “extreme cruelty.” However, if the couple continues to live together after one of these instances, grounds for divorce no longer exist.

Chapter XLIV Section 1 establishes that the property of a married woman, whether gained before or after marriage, is exempt from her husband’s debts, unless those debts were incurred by providing for the woman or her children. To gain this legal protection, the law requires that the woman register her property with the county.


A Montana Supreme Court decision clarifies married women’s property rights: If a husband contractually agrees to perform services for three people, one of whom being his wife, the contract supersedes common law as between a husband and wife. In addition, a married woman can record a list of her property with the register of deeds in her county. This exempts her from the debts of her husband, as well as proves her title should her husband claim that her possessions belong to him.


The legislative assembly passes the Married Women as Sole Traders Act, which allows a married woman to transact business in her own name if she declares her intent to do so before an official, and then is in charge of all debts and profits from the business. The woman may not carry on business if the initial investment exceeded $10,000, unless she can prove that the investment did not come from funds belonging to her husband. Additionally, if a woman takes advantage of this act, her husband is exempt from any debts she might incur. Any married woman “availing herself of the benefits of this act” is responsible for the maintenance of her children.

In Extraordinary Session the territorial legislature passes an act stating that married woman can sue a person who knowingly gives intoxicating liquor to a person with an established drinking problem or to minors without their parents’ permission. Women are excluded from serving on a jury, as Section 8 establishes that only white males of the lawful age can sit on a jury.


The regular session of the 12th Legislative Assembly of Montana expands Chapter XX on divorce law. In addition to the established reasons for divorce, some protections are added for women. Section 512 makes it lawful for a divorced wife to receive alimony to maintain herself or her children. Section 513 allows a woman who sues for divorce, who can prove that she is too poor to pay for legal proceedings, to have those legal fees waived.


The 2nd Regular Session of the Montana Legislative Assembly passes a law allowing women to hold certain public offices and vote in school district elections and on “other certain questions.” It also includes specific language saying that women cannot vote in other elections.


The 10th Regular Session of the Montana legislature amends the definition of “extreme cruelty” as a basis for divorce (the concept of “extreme cruelty” was included in the 1871 divorce law, but the term is not clearly defined until 1907, thirty-six years later). The legislature defines “extreme cruelty” as “the infliction or threat of grievous bodily injury, bodily injury dangerous to life, repeated threat of injury or personal violence . . . the publication or utterance of false charges against the chastity of the wife . . . or the infliction of grievous mental suffering for one year immediately preceding the divorce action.”

The legislative assembly also passes an act prohibiting women from entering wine rooms and saloons or any attached room for the purpose of being supplied with liquor. It also prohibits signs such as “ladies entrance,” women’s entrance,” or “private entrance” over any door or in any passageway leading to a saloon.


The House passes a joint resolution appointing Linnie Peyton—the widow of Charlie B. Peyton, a Montana Game and Fish deputy warden for four years—with a salary of $125 per month. Mr. Peyton had been shot and killed in the line of duty as a Game and Fish deputy warden, which left his family without support. The appointment of Mrs. Peyton was in recognition of his service to the state. However, the state warden never authorized the appointment. (The Pend d’Oreille woman who shot Peyton insisted she did so in self-defense after he and his deputy killed five members of her hunting party.)


The index of the 12th Regular Session includes many entries regarding prostitution, including the regulation of the following: transporting women for the purpose of prostitution, inducing or procuring women and girls as prostitutes, holding a woman against her will for the purpose of prostitution, and knowingly accepting or appropriating the earnings of a prostitute.


More than two-thirds of both houses of the legislature approve a constitutional amendment to establish new suffrage laws allowing women to vote in general elections. That places the amendment on the November ballot, where eligible voters (male citizens) also vote in its favor. After the amendment’s passage, all women can vote if they meet the criteria of being a citizen, over the age of twenty-one, not a felon, and had resided in Montana for one year before the election is held. (Note that most Native Americans are not citizens, and therefore most Indian women remain disenfranchised.)

The legislative assembly also defines rape as a crime (rape had been left out of the 1907 revised codes) and raises the legal age of consent to eighteen years old. The definition of rape includes many circumstances that were to be considered rape, but the law explicitly states that a woman has no legal grounds to accuse a man of rape if she is the wife of the perpetrator.


Chapter 61 includes a section that allows mothers and fathers to be equally entitled to the care and custody of “legitimate, unmarried, minor children” should the other parent die or abandon the family.

The Revised Codes of Montana (RCM) is amended to say that husbands and wives are not competent witnesses for or against one another in a criminal action where one or both are parties. A wife or husband could still act as a witness if both consented, if one had committed criminal violence against the other, and if one had abandoned the family or was neglectful.

In addition, Chapter 129 is amended to state that husbands and wives are not answerable for the acts or debts of their spouse.


Legislators approve an act limiting the hours women can work in manufacturing, mechanical or mercantile establishments, laundries, hotels, or restaurants to eight hours in a twenty-four-hour day. This act further requires that all such establishments provide seating for female employees to use when not engaged in their active employment duties.

Legislators also sign into law an act providing a means of compelling those who willfully neglect or abandon their families to pay support.

In addition to these laws, the legislature passes an act giving a pension to a mother for qualifying children if the father dies, becomes physically or mentally unable to support the family, or is incarcerated in a state institution for more than ninety days.


Chapter 147 of the 16th Legislative Assembly makes it illegal to pay women less than men for the same work. Chapter 198 further defines the pension for mothers created in 1917, adding requirements that the mother be morally and mentally fit to raise children and requiring an application to renew the pension after a period of six months.

Chapter 106 empowers state, county, and local health officers, or their authorized deputies, to examine and detain people they have reason to suspect are infected with venereal disease. It also requires health officers to cooperate with officials whose duty it is to enforce laws directed against prostitution.

The 16th Legislative Assembly also submits a memorial to the U.S. Senate, asking the Senate to extend suffrage to include women on the federal level by amending the U.S. Constitution. The Montana legislature ratifies the Susan B. Anthony suffrage amendment in a special session later this year.


Section 2 of Chapter 76 defines buildings used for prostitution as a nuisance (alongside buildings used for gambling, opium or coca consumption, and “wine rooms”), from hereon to be “enjoined, abated, and prevented.”

The legislature revises the language of the Mother’s Pension Act significantly, restricting which children qualify, making the application process more thorough, and requiring that every person receiving an allowance file a written report with the clerk of the district court monthly.

The legislative session also passes House Joint Memorial No. 16, recognizing that one out of forty deaths in Montana is a mother in childbirth, and that this constitutes “a serious reflection upon our humanitarianism.” As such, the legislature urges Congress to adopt the Sheppard-Towner Bill, providing federal funding for maternity and child care.


This legislative session revises the Mother’s Pension Act, limiting who is considered eligible for allowances under the act. For a mother to receive funds, the child has to be living with the mother and the mother has to prove that without the allowance she cannot care for the child financially without finding regular work outside of the home. The court has to judge that a mother is physically, mentally, and morally able to raise her children, and that she does in fact need the financial help of the Mother’s Pension Act. Allowances will not be given if children have their own property, making them capable of supporting themselves, or if they have not been a U.S. citizen for at least a year.


Chapter 22 amends Section 5738 of the RCM, which deals with “extreme cruelty” as grounds for divorce. A person claiming extreme cruelty still has to have suffered mental cruelty for a year preceding the commencement of action for divorce, but the law no longer requires it to be the year immediately preceding the action for divorce.


The 23rd Legislative Assembly enacts Section 662, requiring each political party to nominate and elect two committeemen at its primary election, one of which must be a woman, one a man, and both residents of the precincts for which they are nominated.

This assembly also modifies the RCM relating to a wife’s property, stating that all the property of the wife acquired before or after marriage is her separate property, which she may convey or transfer without the agreement of her husband.


In this year all property that was exempt from execution, including the homestead, is legally set apart for the use of the family. This requires that, should a spouse die, the surviving spouse or minor children receives all of the deceased’s property not claimed by authorities to pay off debts.

The Mother’s Pension Act once again comes under scrutiny. Now, if the father commits a felony and is thus unable to provide for the family, the county where he resided at the time of his conviction will pay the allowance to his wife. Furthermore, before 1935, “mother” was not defined in relation to the child for which a woman claimed an allowance. Now “mother” is defined as “the mother of the child by birth or by legal adoption,” as well as a woman who is the sole provider for a child for a period of one year.

Chapter 79 establishes that an “Insane married woman’s” right of dower (the portion of the estate a wife would receive should her husband pass away) may be mortgaged by her guardian to pay debts or costs for the woman.


Chapter 19 Section 1 is amended to include that the right of dower of a woman declared “insane or mentally incompetent” may be sold as well as mortgaged by her guardian, and that the title of the real estate will be transferred to the purchasing party under the direction of the court.

Chapter 65 adds incurable insanity as a cause for divorce. To establish that a spouse is “incurably insane,” physicians need to supply testimony, and the person has to have been regularly confined in a state institution for at least five years. The institutionalized person or their guardian has a right to appear and be heard, and the granting of the divorce will not alter the maintenance of the institutionalized person.
The Mother’s Pension Act, along with many other sections of the Revised Codes of Montana, is repealed with the passage of the Public Welfare Act. The newly established State Public Welfare Department now oversees the disbursement of funds to those in need.


Women become eligible for service on a jury after multiple sections of the Revised Codes of Montana are amended to read “persons” instead of “men.”


The 28th Legislative Assembly amends Section 2566 of the RCM, an act that pertains to the examination, detention, and quarantine of people suspected of having venereal disease. It gives state, county, and local health officers, or their authorized deputies, the power to examine people “reasonably suspected” of carrying a sexually transmitted infection, including prostitutes and those suspected of promiscuity. Public health officials are within their legal rights if they inspect and detain such infected individuals in an effort to safeguard public health or to repress prostitution.


Six years after women became eligible to serve on a jury, a new law is enacted requiring county commissioners to provide a separate room for female jurors from their male counterparts should the jury have to retire overnight during deliberation.

Chapter 183 states that all property deeds prior to 1900, unless the wife is included on them, belongs to the man who signed the deed, as he is “presumed single,” removing the wife’s claims to a right of dower.

The cause of “incurable insanity” for divorce is amended. Now a person may qualify for divorce if his or her counterpart has lived at any state or private institution for the permanent care of individuals with mental illnesses.


A widow’s right of dower is limited to two-thirds of her deceased husband’s estate.


Chapter 39 of the 42nd Legislative Assembly records An Act Relating to Freedom from Discrimination for Women as a Civil Right in Employment and Public Accommodations. This ensures an individual’s right to be free from discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, or national origin both in the workplace and in public.


The Montana Constitutional Convention includes a milestone Declaration of Rights in Article II of the new state constitution. Section 4, Individual Dignity, reads, “The dignity of the human being is inviolable. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. Neither the state nor any person, firm, corporation, or institution shall discriminate against any person in the exercise of his civil or political rights on account of race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas.”


The 43rd Legislative Assembly adds “irreconcilable differences” as a cause for divorce. These differences must persist for six months before legal action for divorce can be taken. The details of the differences do not need to be pleaded in the particular; using the phrase “irreconcilable differences” is sufficient as a cause for divorce.


The Montana Senate and House of Representatives pass House Joint Resolution No. 004, which recommends an amendment to the U.S. Constitution providing that equal rights shall not be denied based on sex.

House Joint Resolution No. 38 urges Congress to pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution “guaranteeing the right to life.” This would provide due process and equal protection to fetuses from the moment of conception.

Senate Joint Resolution No. 68 requests that a committee be formed to examine the Revised Codes of Montana before the next legislative session to identify laws that distinguish between persons on the basis of sex.

An Act to Prevent Discrimination in Employment is enacted, stipulating that the refusal to employ a person, admit them to a trade union, provide public accommodation, or admit them to an educational institution based on race, religion, age, physical or mental handicap, or sex is illegal. A commission for human rights is formed that has the power to investigate and act on infringements of this law.

The 43rd Legislature enacts the Abortion Counselors and Counseling Services Act, requiring the state to provide at least two counseling sessions to a woman seeking an abortion. The sessions must be provided by a qualified counselor who can remain objective regarding the patient’s choice of alternative courses of action. The goals of these counseling sessions are to inform the woman of her options, encourage her to face and express her feelings, and enhance her mental stability in regard to her decision.

The legislature also passes the Montana Abortion Control Act, requiring that a woman give informed consent prior to receiving an abortion. Her physician must describe to her the stage of development of the fetus, the method of abortion and how it affects the fetus, physical and psychological side effects, and available alternatives “including childbirth and adoption.” In order to receive an abortion, women must have written notice from her husband, if married, or written notice from a parent or guardian if under age eighteen. The informed consent is not required if a licensed physician certifies that the abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life.


Following the review undertaken in accordance with Joint Resolution No. 68 in 1974, the 44th Legislature of Montana amends many laws to use more inclusive language so as not to provide legal grounds to discriminate against women. These changes are as follows:

  1. Either spouse can now be considered the head of the family.
  2. The law on sexual intercourse without consent no longer says that a man assaults a woman, but rather that a person assaults a person. Note that at this time individuals could not commit this offense against their spouse; a spouse is considered in perpetual consent.
  3. A person cannot be denied credit based on sex.
  4. The domicile of a minor can be with either parent.
  5. Property acquired before marriage or personally acquired after marriage is the property of the individual who acquired it.

In addition to these changes, Chapter No. 320 provides maternity leave to public and private employees. An employer can no longer end a woman’s employment because of her pregnancy, refuse to grant her a reasonable leave of absence, deny a pregnant woman benefits she had accrued, retaliate against a woman who made a formal complaint, or require that a woman take a mandatory maternity leave for an unreasonable amount of time. Upon a woman’s return following her maternity leave, employers are required to reinstate her to her original job and provide all the benefits she had prior to taking the maternity leave.

The newly enacted Uniform Parent Act states that “the parent and child relationship extends equally to every child and to every parent,” and that the child’s natural mother may be established by proof of her having given birth to the child. The child’s paternal relationship may be established in many ways, as laid out by this law.

Section 12-216 clarifies that any time a law is written with the word “man” or “men,” it is assumed to include “woman” or “women” unless the content only relates clearly and necessarily to the male sex.

The marriage and divorce laws of Montana now fall under the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, as recommended by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. This act defines what paperwork is required for marriage, what familial relations may not be married, what age one must be to wed, the legal grounds for divorce, and how property can be divided should a marriage end. The act also delineates child custody as well as the payment of alimony and child support if a couple divorces.


The 45th Legislature repeals the Abortion Counselors and Counseling Services Act of 1974.

Chapter No. 94 adds that if a victim does not immediately come forward in a criminal prosecution for rape, this does not raise any presumption as to the credibility of the victim.

Section 95-813 mandates that the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in the place where a rape occurs must pay for the medical examination of the alleged victim if the examination is used to obtain evidence to investigate the crime.

Chapter No. 174 grants name changes to all women who request to have their maiden name restored after a divorce.

Chapter No. 384 allows a victim of sexual intercourse without consent to videotape their testimony and not have to be present in the courtroom when this videoed testimony is given.

A pilot program meant to help “displaced homemakers” is established in Chapter No. 506. The legislature recognizes that many women who are homemakers lose their spouse through death or divorce before they are eligible for Social Security. These women can find it especially difficult to find work since they have no recent paid work experience. This program provides for the counseling, training, services, and health care for displaced homemakers to gain independence and financial security.

House Joint Resolution No. 38 commends housewives and mothers who make an “immeasurable contribution to the stability of society.” The Montana legislature urges other legislative bodies through this Joint Resolution to support legislation that would “reaffirm and strengthen the solidarity of the home.”

House Joint Resolution No. 103 requests a committee to study the problems and needs of battered spouses, as the “problems of battered spouses and their families have not been adequately addressed in Montana.”


The 46th Montana legislature repeals Section 40-1-211, which required that a license to marry could not be issued if either person applying had failed to support their lawful dependents.

Chapter No. 127 provides for a custodial hearing should a custodial parent die. Upon the death of the custodial parent, custody of a child would pass to the non-custodial parent. However, a hearing can be requested by a variety of people: the surviving spouse of the deceased, a person nominated by the will of the deceased, any person nominated by the child if the child is twelve or older, or any person that the court allows to intervene as an interested party.

The Commissioner of Labor and Industry is given authority to enforce maternity leave provisions through district court proceedings in Chapter No. 286.

Chapter No. 407 allows spouses to sue their counterpart if their counterpart commits an intentional tort (a wrongful act or infringement of a right).

Chapter No. 464 clarifies that a divorce decree may be modified to allow for maintenance or support even if these were not allowed for in the original divorce decree.

Chapter No. 499 requires the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to gather and analyze statistics on domestic violence and spousal abuse for a period of four years. The department is to create a check-off form for institutions like hospitals, sheriffs, city attorneys, and mental health centers to use in reporting domestic violence.

Chapter No. 612 establishes administrative procedures for enforcing the support of dependent children. The goal is to ensure that parents who have left their children are still financially supporting them, and that the burden does not fall on the taxpayer.

The legislative assembly appropriates $375,000 in Chapter No. 637 to provide expanded day care for families that make less than 75 percent of the state’s median income.

The assembly also establishes a grant for the benefit of battered spouses in Chapter No. 677. The money for programs to benefit battered spouses comes from marriage license fees and can be used to provide many services to victims of domestic abuse, including counseling, shelters or safe homes, advocacy programs, and educational programs for communities and hospitals.


The Child Support Income Deduction Act of 1981 is passed. This act allows child support payments to be deducted directly from an individual’s paycheck if that person has been delinquent in his or her payment of court-ordered child support.

The 47th Legislative Assembly also amends Chapter No. 180, an act pertaining to temporary injunctions and restraining orders filed against spouses in domestic abuse situations. The abused spouse can now file for a temporary injunction or restraining order without first filing a petition for the dissolution of marriage or a petition for legal separation.

Chapter No. 245 enacts the Individual Family Disability Insurance Continuity of Coverage Act, which allows for a person covered by the disability insurance of his or her spouse to remain covered if that spouse dies or if the couple receives a marriage annulment.

Chapter No. 416 pertains to the custody of a child. In addition to requiring that custody decisions be made in the best interest of the child, the legislature stipulates that a court “may not prefer a parent as a custodian because of the parent’s sex.”

The legislature also amends Chapter No. 10 while in special session to allow financial aid to be paid for dependent children of needy pregnant women, provided the money is not paid more than three months prior to when the child will be born.

House Joint Resolution No. 6 passes, urging the Department of Health and Environmental Sciences to caution mothers and retailers about the effect of certain drugs on unborn children. The resolution mentions prescription and nonprescription drugs as categories that should be warned against, and specifically includes alcohol.

House Joint Resolution No. 15 also passes, encouraging the U.S. Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to include protection for unborn children.

Marriage license fees are raised in Chapter No. 493, from $25 to $30. This allows for more money from marriage licenses to go toward the fund that was set aside for battered spouses in 1979.


The 48th Legislative Assembly amends Chapter No. 279 to stipulate that it is an unlawful, discriminatory practice to refuse employment or membership in a labor organization based on marital status.

Chapter No. 310 establishes a standard of equal pay for comparable worth. This law makes it illegal, in classifying positions, to reflect gender biases (and understandings of who typically does what type of work) when judging the value of different jobs.

Chapter No. 154 amends Section 40-1-203 to require each female applicant for a marriage license to present the results of a serological (blood) test, unless exempted on medical grounds, along with proof of age before a marriage license can be issued.

The legislature enacts the Displaced Homemaker Act, the purpose of which is to provide counseling, training, jobs, services, and health care for individuals that worked in the home for at least three years, giving unpaid services for family members. This act is meant to ease the transition of such homemakers back into the workforce.


The 50th Legislative Assembly enacts the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. This makes it legal for parties in a premarital agreement to contract with respect to the control of property during the marriage and the dispensation of property upon the dissolution of a marriage.


The 51st Legislative Assembly passes the Montana Initiative for the Abatement of Mortality in Infants (MIAMI) Act. The goal of this act is to ensure that mothers and their children, specifically those of low income or who have limited access to health care, receive quality health services to reduce infant mortality and prevent chronic illness in newborn children. The chapter also amends Section 53-6-101 to supply funds for this act through the Montana Medicaid Program.

Chapter No. 657 amends the Uniform Health Care Information Act to clarify that a health care provider can refuse to supply patient information that might disclose a child’s birth out of wedlock.

Chapter No. 251 amends the New Horizons Act to distribute funds to operators of the Displaced Homemaker Program.

Chapter No. 543 makes it illegal to discriminate membership to public clubs and institutions based on sex, except when the distinction is made upon “reasonable grounds.” Public clubs do not include institutions that are distinctly private, such as recognized national fraternal organizations.


The 52nd legislature passed House Joint Resolution No. 3 supporting the supplemental food program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), particularly its work promoting breastfeeding in Montana. This joint resolution states that the legislature fully supports the WIC program and its goals.

Chapter No. 454 prohibits discrimination in public accommodations and housing on the basis of marital status.

Chapter No. 634 contains An Act to Revise and Continue the MIAMI Project, which removes language that made the MIAMI Act of 1989 temporary. The MIAMI Act funded health care services to reduce infant mortality.

Chapter No. 663 requires health insurers and health maintenance organizations doing business in Montana to provide coverage for minimum mammography examinations. A “minimum mammography examination” means one mammogram for a woman between the ages of thirty-five and forty, a mammogram every two years for women between the ages of forty and fifty, and a yearly mammogram for women fifty years of age or older.

Chapter No. 687 revises the laws relating to sexual crimes. Sexual assault is now defined as a person knowingly subjecting another person to any sexual contact without consent. Before this revision, a person could not sexually assault his or her spouse; now spouses had legal protection against unwanted sexual contact within the marriage. Furthermore, this chapter revises the language on victims of sexual assault. Before this revision, the language read that “a person who knowingly has sexual intercourse without consent with a person of the opposite sex commits the offense of sexual intercourse without consent.” As of this change in the law, the language reads that “a person who knowingly has sexual intercourse without consent with another person commits the offense of sexual intercourse without consent.”


The 52nd Legislature passes Chapter No. 425, which expands the temporary restraining order laws and refines some definitions within the laws. Throughout the chapter, the former phrase of “household member” is changed to “partner,” and “partner” is defined as a “spouse, former spouse, and persons who have been or are currently in a dating or ongoing intimate relationship with a person of the opposite sex.”

Chapter No. 523 provides that individuals can be placed in civil contempt should they fail to pay court-ordered child support.


The 53rd Legislature passes Senate Joint Resolution No. 23, which urges all Montana district school boards to emphasize abstinence-only sex education classes as the most effective protection against pregnancy.


Chapter No. 469, cited as the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, requires that before performing an abortion upon a minor, a physician must give at least forty-eight hours’ notice to one of the patient’s parents or legal guardians. This notification can be waived if there is a medical emergency or if the guardian waives the need for a notice in writing.

The Montana legislature passes Chapter No. 566, the Woman’s Right-to-Know Act. The goals of this act are to “ensure that every woman who is considering an abortion receive complete information on alternatives” to “protect unborn children from a woman’s uninformed decision to have an abortion,” in order to “reduce the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that the decision was not fully informed.” The act also requires that a woman seeking an abortion give informed consent. To be informed, the physician performing the abortion must tell the woman receiving it the medical risks associated with the procedure, the probable gestational age of the unborn child, and the medical risks of carrying the child to term.


The 55th Legislature in regular session passes Chapter No. 312, an act that provides the death sentence for a person convicted twice of sexual intercourse without consent, who inflicts serious bodily injury to the victim during the commission of the offenses.

Chapter No. 314 makes knowingly performing a partial birth abortion a felony punishable by a fine not to exceed $50,000, to be accompanied by no fewer than five but no more than ten years in a correctional facility.

Chapter No. 424 passes, prohibiting marriage between persons of the same sex.

The legislature passes Senate Joint Resolution No. 8, which urges Congress and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide annual screening mammograms for women who qualify for Medicare.



The 56th Legislature passes Chapter No. 299, an act protecting the right of a mother to nurse her child in public. Breastfeeding may not be considered a nuisance, indecent exposure, sexual conduct, or obscenity, regardless of whether the mother’s breast is covered while feeding her child.

Chapter No. 307 passes, requiring state landholding and land-managing agencies to identify and remove all places with the word “squaw” in their title. The act allows for the coordinator of Indian Affairs to appoint an advisory group to develop replacement names.

House Joint Resolution No. 37 is passed, urging the legislative council to appoint an interim committee to study “women’s prison issues.”


The 57th Legislature revises the laws specifying the kind of information collected on a marriage license application that can be released to the public. It also clarifies that marriage licenses and certificates of marriage are public documents. It authorizes the clerk of the district court to release the names, ages, and dates of birth of the parties on a marriage license, the date and place of the marriage, the names and addresses of the parents of those getting married, the name of the officiant, and the type of ceremony.

Chapter No. 287 stipulates that it is not marital status discrimination for an employer to employ or offer employment to a person as well as to his or her spouse.

Chapter No. 351 expands the act requiring screening of pregnant women. Now a health care provider, when administering a standard serological test to a pregnant woman, must also test for hepatitis B.

Chapter No. 520 allows an individual who leaves work or is discharged because of circumstances resulting from domestic violence to receive unemployment benefits.

Chapter No. 562 expands the term “without consent” in regard to a criminal charge of “sexual intercourse without consent.” Now, if a victim is overcome by use of deception, coercion, or surprise, an attacker has committed the crime of sexual intercourse without consent.


In Chapter No. 187, the 59th Legislature expands on Chapter No. 520 from 2001. Now victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are entitled to unemployment benefits if the victim had to leave work due to the crime committed against them.


The 60th Legislature passes an act that requires break time and privacy for the needs of breastfeeding mothers in state and county governments, municipalities, school districts, and the university system. In addition, Chapter No. 290 provides that it is discrimination to refuse to hire, or to discharge, an employee who prefers to breast-feed.


The 61st Legislature in special session passes Chapter No. 167, an act that revises exemptions from jury duty to include breastfeeding mothers, as jury duty creates undue hardship on the mother and child.

Chapter No. 249 eliminates the requirement that a medical certificate be attached to a declaration of marriage.

Chapter No. 362 incorporates prenatal screening for HIV and HIV-related conditions into a pregnant patient’s general informed consent for medical care. This means that HIV diagnostic tests are considered routine, and if a patient declines to have the test, this must be documented in the patient’s medical records.


The 62nd Legislature passes Chapter No. 271, an act making it deliberate homicide to knowingly cause the death of a fetus of another with the knowledge that the woman is pregnant. This does not extend to a person performing an abortion on a consenting pregnant woman.

Chapter No. 279 provides for a mural that honors the history of Montana women as community builders in the state capitol building. These murals would be finished in 2015, lining the grand staircase leading to the third floor of the Montana State Capitol.


The 64th Legislature passes Chapter No. 162, which requires that an original birth certificate be released upon the written request of an adult adoptee. Now a person who was adopted and is over the age of eighteen can acquire their original birth certificate unless the individual’s birth parents explicitly requested that the birth certificate not be released.