MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An attorney for six gay couples suing Montana for the benefits that married couples have says his clients should be able to make decisions about their families' health and finances. Attorney James Goetz asked the Montana Supreme Court Friday to declare that not providing those legal benefits is an unconstitutional violation of equal-rights protections.

The couples are appealing a Helena judge's dismissal of their case last year after state prosecutors argued that spousal benefits are limited to married couples.

Assistant attorney general Mike Black says the Legislature can create a separate class for
couples regardless of sexual orientation. But Black says lawmakers do not have a constitutional mandate to do so and the couples' demands are overly sweeping.

The justices did not make an immediate ruling.