Law that made gay sex a crime in Montana is repealed

2013-04-19T04:45:00Z 2014-02-12T06:21:41Z Law that made gay sex a crime in Montana is repealed missoulian.com

HELENA – Before a large crowd in the Capitol rotunda Thursday afternoon, Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law a bill that strikes an obsolete Montana law making gay sex a crime.

“I am not going to speak too long because frankly the longer I talk, the longer this unconstitutional and embarrassing law stays in our books,” Bullock said.

As Bullock signed different copies of the bill, the audience in the rotunda and those watching from the gallery burst out in loud cheers.

Senate Bill 107, by Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, removed from state law books a statute that the Montana Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional in 1997.

Yet the illegal law remained on the books for 16 years because only the Legislature can pass a law to repeal a law.

For two decades, legislators had been trying to repeal the law, which had lumped gay sex in with “sexual intercourse with an animal” as criminal deviate sexual conduct.

People convicted of the crime could have faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine, although no one had been prosecuted for the crime for years.

In the past, most Republicans united to oppose efforts by Democrats to repeal the law, but in this session, enough GOP lawmakers joined Democrats to pass SB107. The final votes were 38-11 in the Senate and 64-35 in the House, with Republicans controlling both chambers.

As the law went off the books, it was a day of celebration at the Capitol for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and those supporting them. The “Former Felons Ball” was planned for later Thursday night in Helena.

***

The first speaker was Linda Gryczan of Helena, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that struck down the law.

She praised some past legislators who tried to repeal the law before the lawsuit was filed, including Vivian Brooke and Diane Sands of Missoula and John Bohlinger of Billings, who went on to serve as lieutenant governor. She also praised current Sens. Christine Kaufmann of Helena and Facey.

“So we tried that for a few years and realized it wasn’t going so well, so we sued,” Gryczan said. She and five other people filed the lawsuit.

Gryczan applauded the people who drove across the state but were allowed to testify for only one minute before hostile legislative committees. Others “came out” to their friends, families, co-workers and fellow lawmakers, she said, while a number of people raised money and made many calls to the Capitol.

“By those small actions, repeated year after year, day after day, you have created the cultural change that made this change possible,” Gryczan said.

She also praised Republican Reps. Steve Gibson, R-East Helena, and Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, for their speeches on the floor in the House.

White T-shirts were distributed Thursday with a photo of Ankney, the retired coal miner with droopy moustache who spoke out against the law in a speech on the House floor last week. Ankney said the law made his own daughter a criminal, and he called the law an embarrassment that needs to go away.

Facey said the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community can cherish and celebrate the passage of SB107.

He added that this group “has challenges ahead of it in terms of protection and rights” and urged people to continue to fight for them.

Afterward, Jamee Greer, a lobbyist for the Montana Human Rights Network, called it a day for LGBT people and for all Montanans to celebrate.

“It’s one brick in the road to full equality for all LGBT Montanans,” Greer said.

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or by email at chuck.johnson@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(22) Comments

  1. Curmudgeon
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    Curmudgeon - May 01, 2013 11:26 am
    True, BALTHAZAR, my wife and I occasionally (and joyously), under Montana law, commited a FELONY.
  2. Curmudgeon
    Report Abuse
    Curmudgeon - April 30, 2013 11:47 am
    MTNIMROD said: "BTW, God's call is that it's immoral."

    Really? Says who? Can you defend that assertion with EVIDENCE? (Bible-thumping is not evidence.)
  3. Balthazar
    Report Abuse
    Balthazar - April 22, 2013 10:39 am
    It is just amazing that most of the comments have been made by people who have probably at one time or another committed sodomy in their lives. FLASH: This is not just a bill about gay sex. Think about it, then throw the first stone if you are trully innocent. Montana needs to wake up to the 21st century. This law was unconstitutional years ago. Montana should be ashamed to have waited so long to rid themselves of this law.
  4. GaryTinkSanders
    Report Abuse
    GaryTinkSanders - April 19, 2013 2:50 pm
    And how many BIG GOVERNMENT DEMOCRATS voted for gun control to place an unconstitutional law on the books and then they claim they want to stay out of our lives, homes and are for freedom of choice. Democrats rail about Republicans staying out of the bedrooms so the Democrats need to stay out of my gun safe.
  5. Curmudgeon
    Report Abuse
    Curmudgeon - April 19, 2013 2:34 pm
    WALTER12 said "Look out for AIDA...".

    What does an Ethiopian princess have to do with a sodomy law? Unless maybe she and Radames were up to some kind of hanky-pank we didn't know about.
  6. MTNimrod
    Report Abuse
    MTNimrod - April 19, 2013 2:21 pm
    I think you have me confused with someone who actually takes a hypocritical stance on this issue. It doesn't matter who is involved, it's still immoral. You won't find me defending ANYONE, "clergy" or otherwise. Those that have done the things to which you refer are despicable and deserve whatever punishment can be administered.

    You think this law will make that easier?
  7. MTNimrod
    Report Abuse
    MTNimrod - April 19, 2013 2:19 pm
    You don't know me, you don't know my "religion" and you CERTAINLY don't know my God. Don't pretend otherwise.

    BTW, God's call is that it's immoral. You'll do what you want regardless, until you decide that what HE wants is more important.
  8. sofaking tired of the GOP
    Report Abuse
    sofaking tired of the GOP - April 19, 2013 12:57 pm
    Yes we should let the government tell consenting adults what not to do in the bedroom, that makes so much sense.
  9. sofaking tired of the GOP
    Report Abuse
    sofaking tired of the GOP - April 19, 2013 12:57 pm
    Don't know what the point in replying to your comment since you just troll with nonsense and then don't respond. But we should stick with what the bible tells us? Should we execute people who work on the Sabbath like the bible commands? Should we legalize slavery again since the bible says it's OK? Should we make Red Lobster and pork chops illegal? How about tattoos, bible hates them too. And playing football is a sin as we are not even supposed to touch pig skin.
  10. sofaking tired of the GOP
    Report Abuse
    sofaking tired of the GOP - April 19, 2013 12:54 pm
    Don't think the government should be involved in adults' bedrooms straight or gay.
  11. hellgatenights
    Report Abuse
    hellgatenights - April 19, 2013 11:10 am
    yes........animals can rest now without fear of the police interrupting their play time
  12. hellgatenights
    Report Abuse
    hellgatenights - April 19, 2013 11:07 am
    Whew! We can all sleep better now that SODOMY officially has the governor's endorsement, especially since it is "All the rage" in the heterosexual relationships now.
  13. Rob C
    Report Abuse
    Rob C - April 19, 2013 10:59 am
    Is that your call to make or is it your gods call to make? Even if I believed in your silly religion, I would still think its god who calls the shots, not you. Maybe you should try to believe better, cause obviously you don't follow your own preaching.
  14. nwwt
    Report Abuse
    nwwt - April 19, 2013 10:39 am
    Unless the clergy does it to minors without consent. Then it's sacred. Oh wait, morality is changing with the times? Interesting.
  15. The_Boneshackler
    Report Abuse
    The_Boneshackler - April 19, 2013 9:34 am
    So 11 Republican Senators and 35 Republican House members voted to keep this Unconstitutional Big Government law on the books. So much for the American Taliban's lies about 'small government' and 'respect' for the Constitution. Hypocrites all.
  16. walter12
    Report Abuse
    walter12 - April 19, 2013 7:21 am
    7000 years now of this type of activity in every culture, nothing new here. The Bible called them sodomites. Hah, but we laugh at the Bible today. Look out for AIDA, Hepatitus, Meningitis, and dropsy.
  17. cdwmissoula
    Report Abuse
    cdwmissoula - April 19, 2013 6:29 am
    It's about time.
  18. saltine
    Report Abuse
    saltine - April 19, 2013 6:03 am
    The wheel of progress turns slowly around here, but it turns.... VICTORY
  19. Longhorn Fan
    Report Abuse
    Longhorn Fan - April 19, 2013 4:58 am
    I wonder how they enforced it anyway. Was there a Bedroom Police Force? Just think, now they have the right to do as they please in the privacy of their bedroom.
  20. ScottAftem
    Report Abuse
    ScottAftem - April 19, 2013 4:48 am
    Maybe the stereotypes are right. Maybe we are a backwards, backwoods people. Just maybe.
  21. MTNimrod
    Report Abuse
    MTNimrod - April 18, 2013 10:53 pm
    No longer illegal, but still immoral as ever.
  22. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - April 18, 2013 8:43 pm
    Only took the Legislature 16 years to strike down a law the courts said is unconstitutional? Nice work Potter Party....finally so you don't look like the complete fools you really are...one thing done well, even if it is a little late.
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