HELENA – Montana lawmakers considered a pair of familiar gay rights measures Tuesday, one that would strike an obsolete state law that criminalizes gay sex and another that would expand anti-discrimination protections.

The state Senate overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal that repeals an anti-gay law ruled unconstitutional in 1997 by the Montana Supreme Court. The state’s deviate sexual relations law still makes illegal “sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex.”

Democrats argued Tuesday that it is time to remove the hurtful language from the statutes, even if it is not enforceable. The Senate backed the plan 38-10 in an initial vote.

“I have chosen Montana as my home for the last 30 years because it feeds my spirit. But there is one thing that grieves my spirit and that is this law on the books that says I am a felon,” said state Sen. Christine Kaufmann, a Helena Democrat who is a lesbian. “It says I deserve to be in prison for 10 years for making a family with the woman I love.”

No one spoke in opposition of the Senate Bill 107, and it passed with little fanfare by a chamber that would clearly like to stop debating a bill that returns to the Legislature every session.

Advocates said that Montana is one of 18 states that still have such laws on the books even though courts have ruled them unconstitutional.

Kaufmann said she first started pushing such a bill 22 years ago at the Legislature – only to see it die year after year. Even though some states now allow gay marriage, she said Montana is still debating a law thrown out long ago in the courts.

“The law of course is unconstitutional,” Kaufmann said. “But words do matter, and those words are there in our law. And I don’t know any reason why they are there but to remind me and people like me that we are despised.”

But the bill will likely head to the conservative House Judiciary Committee if it formally clears the Senate in a final vote scheduled for Wednesday. A similar measure cleared the Senate in 2011 only to die in that House committee.

Democrats, who have picked up a few seats in that chamber, hope this year will be different. Advocates also point out that since then, the Montana Republican Party has removed from its platform the position that it seeks to make homosexual acts illegal. The party remains opposed to gay marriage.

Another gay rights measure heard Tuesday in a House committee likely faces a tougher road.

House Bill 481 would extend anti-discrimination protections, such as those that protect many minorities, to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“These are our sons, our daughters, our neighbors, our constituents, and our friends,” said Rep. Edith McClafferty, a Butte Democrat. “And they are entitled to live a life free from discrimination.”

Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau said her student advisory board deals with bullying in schools.

“They are really waiting for adults to model the way, and to reflect the values of every Montanan in this state,” Juneau said. “This bill goes a long way to do that.”

Previous efforts have stalled amid criticism from social conservatives.

The committee did not immediately vote on the proposal.

Associated Press Writer Kathryn Haake contributed to this report.

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(9) comments

DavidStalling
DavidStalling

How dare we defy God's laws. Next thing you know, we're going to legalize the eating of shellfish, allow farmers to plant more than two kinds of crops in a field, let people wear clothes made of mixed fabrics, permit football players to touch the skin of a pig on Sunday and not be allowed to stone women to death if they can't prove they're virgins before they marry. We need to get back on the righteous path, tell them penguins being gay aint' natural, and start paying more attention to everything Jesus said about gays. (I've been told he said nothing at all about gays, but surely he must have mentioned it once or twice between all those preachings about "loving thy neighbor" and "not judging others," no?)

madtaxpayer

It doesn't matter to me what the law states, as it is not enforced anyway, but I am curious as to why being gay has become so common place now. What is happening with human biology? Is everyone going to use sperm donors to have children now? I mean it seems to me if we continue to have gays lifestyles forced on the public, our children will think being gay is normal (and no matter what people think, it is NOT normal, if it were, we would only have one sex on this earth) and being straight is not the "in" thing.

I for one will make sure my children understand why we are attracted to the opposite sex. Jeeze, am I the only one who understands why there are males and females??? seems this world doesn't understand that anymore. well I guess by having more gays, population will drop, so that may be one good thing about it.

Veteran

Gay rights? Homosexual acts are immoral and against the very laws of nature. How long will it take to recognise and give special rights to pedophiles? Which acts are immoral, Do we give them recognition and rights because of their sexual orientation and immoral behavior. I think not. I think we have lost all moral fiber as a civilized nation, when we give special recognition and rights to a group of people for their immoral behavior. As citzens these people have the same rights I do. The Constitution nowhere protects immoral behavior, on the contrary it protect us from immoral behavior. What someone does behind the doors of their house is their business, but when you drag your immoral behavor into the public, it becomes our business. I don't want these people teaching or shoveling their immoral behavor on me or my children! What are we becoming, when we as a people throw away our moral standards?

dave ajou
dave ajou

What, exactly, is immoral about two people wishing to be in a loving relationship ? What, exactly, is the likelihood of special rights for pedophiles ? The special rights for pedophiles granted by a number of religious denominations in the past via shuffling them to different congregations has galvanized public disgust to the extent it can no longer be tolerated, or hidden. Is breast feeding in public also an affront to your moral standards ? What some people view as throwing away moral standards is viewed by others as contemplating and elevating our moral standards.

madtaxpayer

umm.... woman + woman = ??????, man + man = ????, doesn't fit, LITERALLY! common sense tells us why we are opposite, not hard to figure out. and I also do not care what they do behind closed doors. I don't flaunt my relationship with my husband in public, why are the rest of us forced to view gays relastionships in public????

dave ajou
dave ajou

Why do you think they are any more inclined to flaunt their relationship in public, than heterosexual couples ? woman + woman, man + man = man + woman . So your "? "= love, honor, respect, kindness and caring for each other. Try to get past the overblown image of the guy in butt chaps, leather vest with no shirt and motorcycle cap, probably not too many of us are going to want to hang around that guy, or his female counterpart. Try thinking of seeing a thousand people in an airport, all going quietly about their own business, with a good percentage of them gay and not fliiting around offending your sensibilities. To answer your question about why "being gay is so commonplace anymore", it's not more commonplace, they just have decided to live like the rest of us.

Veteran

Sure tell where you got your open liberal immoral education. No I don't condone any immoral behavior. liers thieves, rapist, pedophiles, drunks, dope heads. And two people of the same sex that call their lust love. You want to change the law go ahead... I am an old man and not long in this world anyway. I know I can ask you to read the good book, but your probly an athiest too. So why waste my time,

Still Here

Wow Vet, I wonder what you would say if you found out one of YOUR children is Gay or Lesbian? Throw them under the bus? Want to Change them? We are talking about people. So you sick Sick person,, enough. And if you are a true VET, thanks for your service.

Still Here

Well I see old Ready Freddy Thomas is falling lock step in keeping Montana in the dark ages. He was one to vote against this measure. A good self appointed member of the Montana Taliban. This fellow has done so much damage to Montana already. Just imagine if we had affordable utilities before he took the money and ran. He sold us out once, watch him do it again.

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