Follow breaking news @lgbtqnation

Montana legislature stifles debate over competing LGBT protections bills

Saturday, February 19, 2011

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana state legislature is considering two controversial civil rights bills, and the debate has quickly turned into battle over LGBT rights.

At issue are House bills 514 and 516, both centered around an April 2010 Missoula ordinance enacted to protect LGBT citizens from employment, housing and other forms of discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

House Bill 514 seeks to expand Missoula’s anti-discrimination ordinance statewide, extending protection based on gender identity or sexual orientation throughout Montana.

But House Bill 516, sponsored by Rep. Kristin Hansen (R-Havre), would have the opposite effect, and seeks to prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or other policies like Missoula’s that include, as a protected class from discrimination, any groups not already included under current state statute.

The Montana Human Rights Act statute does currently include protections for LGBT citizens.

Hansen’s bill would repeal the Missoula ordinance, and prohibit other local governments from passing similar ordinances in the future.

On Friday, opponents of Hansen’s bill came from across the state to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, but the Republican majority attempted to limit testimony on both sides of the issue to ten minutes.

Via the Montana Capitol Report:

Democrats on the committee objected and even presented rules that require the public be able to at least verbally state their opposition to the bill. The Republicans on the committee ignored the rules, and refused to let opponents of the bill testify.

In response to the GOP actions, Rep. Diane Sands (D-Missoula) took to reading the names of every opponent (all 50+) of the measure and asked them to stand and be acknowledged.

Let’s be clear on what happened … Republicans decided there wasn’t enough time to listen to people who were possibly being stripped of their rights. However, since the beginning of the legislative session, the Republicans have given full and fair hearing to the following bills:

  • SB 112 – Which allows makes a hand thrown spear a legal form of hunting.
  • HB 278 – Which allows every city to create their own militia.
  • SJ 2 – Which urges the United States to withdraw from the United Nations.
  • HB 205 – The “Birther Bill.”
  • HB 384 – Which allows people to carry concealed weapons in bars, banks and churches.

These are bills, which are either unconstitutional, based on conspiracy theories or seriously threaten our public safety, that they think are worthy of their time, however they believe bills that strip rights from Montanans aren’t worthy of full hearings. It says a lot about the priorities of the Republican Majority in the Montana Legislature.

Montana’s legislative rules state that any person wishing to offer testimony to a bill must be given an opportunity to do so orally or in writing.

Not surprisingly, conservative religious groups turned out en masse to support Hansen’s bill to repeal Missoula’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Archives: , , , ,

Filed under: Montana

5 more reader comments:

  1. vote gay! you’ll be more fabulous for it!

    Posted on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 11:17pm
  2. Phucking republicans, where is log cabin, oh sitting,on,their ass as usual

    Posted on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 11:29pm
  3. 1) First interesting thing: Montana Republican platform: to “keep” homosexuality illegal, despite the fact that both Montana case law and federal case law (Lawrence v. Texas) make it impossible to actually criminalize it. Meaning the homosexuality has not can cannot become criminalized. So I have no idea what the fuck “keep” means.

    2) If they actually adopt the legislation to strip queer protections and prevent cities from adopting them in the future, that could well fail in the Supreme Court. I usually don’t make such statements because I don’t have faith in the Court, but seriously, they considered this question quite recently in Romer v Evans, when Colorado tried to do almost exactly the same thing. They lost in Court and the anti-queer constitutional amendment was thrown out.

    My point is that although the political climate is really bad in Montana right now, things can’t really get any worse for queer folks in strictly legal terms because case law stands in the way.

    Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 12:18am
  4. rights shouldnt be up to vote for someone else its not going to effect

    Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 12:40am
  5. Re Supreme Court–little chance there until the far fighters appointed by Bush are dead and gone. Too bad, given some recent decisions, they won’t be impeached by Congess as they should be!! ESP Scalia!!

    Posted on Sunday, February 20, 2011 at 10:15am