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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge on Thursday rejected a lawsuit that sought to extend to gay couples the same legal protections as married couples, saying in his decision that he can’t grant the benefits partly because of the state’s voter-approved constitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of the gay couples, arguing that the guarantees in the Montana Constitution of equal protection, privacy and dignity should require the state to afford the legal rights to the gay couples. The ACLU said it plans to appeal the case to the Montana Supreme Court.

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