Jamee Greer is used to controversy.
As an organizer for the Montana Human Rights Network, he helped spearhead last spring's hard-fought and ultimately successful campaign for the Missoula ordinance that banned discrimination against gay, lesbian, transgendered and transsexual people.
So when he saw the reference to him in a lengthy e-mail sent far and wide by Montana Shooting Sports Association president Gary Marbut concerning in part a bill providing for a Home Guard, Greer's first reaction was to laugh.
It read: "There was no opposition to HB 278 (well, the tinkerbell from the Montana Human Rights Network was there for comic relief but he was unable to articulate anything that got any traction)."
Greer's second reaction was to briefly change his Twitter profile image to one of Tinkerbell.
"I guess if Gary Marbut is calling me a ‘tinkerbell' in his e-mail blasts for opposing his bills, I'm doing something right," he tweeted.
It took a little longer for him to get mad.
"It goes to this weird assumption that real Montanans are manly men," he said Monday. "And because I'm standing up for equality and feminist issues and human rights issues that I'm somehow less of a man and, frankly, less of a Montanan and shouldn't be taken seriously when we're debating serious issues that are impacting people's lives."
That business about not being taken seriously?
Gary Marbut says that's exactly what he meant.
"Inconsequential," Marbut said.
That's how he sees Tinkerbell.
"I thought about it carefully when I used it," he said. "I wanted to use a term that would be indicative but not mean-spirited."
Tinkerbell, of Peter Pan fame, was of course a fairy.
Which is of course a derogatory term for gay people.
Greer is gay.
"That connection didn't occur to me until you mentioned it," Marbut said.
Marbut's legislative update e-mail was posted in full earlier this month on the Meagher County Sportsman Association website and MentalMilitia.com, a group that advocates sovereign citizenry.
Greer said he started hearing about it a couple of weeks ago.
"It was something my friends and allies have certainly made light of," he said. "What else can you do right now? We're certainly the target of a lot of misinformation."
Marbut and the Human Rights Network have long been sparring partners, with Marbut accusing the organization in print in 2008 (and in a telephone interview Monday) of portraying him as a racist.
Marbut's original contention came in response to a 2008 Human Rights Network opinion piece saying that "activists like Marbut and some elected officials have helped bring extreme right-wing ideology into the political mainstream."
Marbut said Monday that "they get it so wrong so often in their zeal to attack that they're good for comic relief. But they're not in my mind any kind of credible information source."
Greer and Marbut both have spent considerable time at the Capitol since the legislative session began in January, testifying on bills that concern them. Bills on social issues have produced some notably heated committee hearings this session. Members of some civil rights, human rights and abortion rights groups recently complained that they're being treated unfairly by House Judiciary Chairman Ken Peterson, R-Billings, at public hearings.
"I think it's indicative of some of the tension that's boiling over in the Capitol," Greer said of Marbut's poke at him.
On Friday, Harris Himes, a Hamilton pastor speaking on behalf of the Montana Eagle Forum, testified in favor of a bill that would in effect rescind Missoula's equality ordinance. Under questioning by Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, Himes said that God deemed gays deserving of punishment and quoted Leviticus saying that homosexuals "surely shall be put to death."
On Monday, a House committee approved the bill. (See related story.)
"Rights are being taken away," Greer said. "Rights are being denied. And all he (Marbut) can say is, ‘This little guy from the Montana Human Rights Network is upset.' "