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Montana House committee advances bill to prevent LGBT protections

Monday, February 21, 2011
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Updated: 2/22/11, See below.

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana State House Judiciary Committee on Monday approved a bill that would prohibit local municipalities from enacting ordinances that include, as a protected class from discrimination, any groups not included under the Montana Human Rights Act.

The measure, House Bill 516, would effectively nullify the city of Missoula’s 2010 ordinance that protects its LGBT citizens from employment, housing and other forms of discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The 2009 Montana Human Rights Act does not include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“After decades of the state failing to protect LGBT Montanans, the House Judiciary Committee decided this morning to take away the right of localities to protect their own residents,” said the Montana Human Rights Network, in a statement.

“Localities have the right and the legal ability to go beyond the Montana Human Rights Act. The Montana Human Rights Act sets the floor. It does not set the ceiling. Cities have the authority to establish ordinances and policies that protect and value members of their communities that have faced a history of discrimination.”

The committee voted 13-7 to endorse the bill, authored by Rep. Kristin Hansen (R-Havre).

The GOP majority on the committee also voted to table HB 514, which would have expanded the expand Missoula’s anti-discrimination ordinance statewide. The move to table that measure came after a motion to pass the bill failed.

Hansen’s bill now goes to the full House for its consideration and a vote.

Update: 2/22/11: On Tuesday afternoon, the Montana state House passed a bill which overturns Missoula’s anti-discrimination ordinance by a vote of 60-39. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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