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Montana to consider bill to repeal outdated law that criminalizes gay sex

Monday, January 21, 2013
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HELENA, Mont. — LGBT advocates said Monday they hope the Montana state legislature will finally repeal an obsolete state law that criminalized gay sex before it was struck down by the courts in the 1990s.

The Montana Supreme Court in 1997 ruled as unconstitutional the portion of the “deviate sexual relations” law that includes “sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex” in the same definition that also includes bestiality.

Sen. Tom Facey (D-Missoula), the bill’s sponsor, said the time has come to strike a law that is unenforceable and offensive.

Groups opposed to the law have tried for years to get the state legislature to formally strike language they argue is hurtful — two years ago, a similar proposal to repeal the law cleared the Senate, only to die in the more conservative House.

But since then, the Montana Republican Party has removed from its platform the position that it seeks to make homosexual acts illegal, although the party remains opposed to gay marriage.

Freshman state Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Superior), said he is co-sponsoring the measure because it “respects the rights of Montanans.”

Opposition was muted compared with arguments in past legislative sessions over the matter. Only two stood to oppose the bill.

Dallas Erickson, with Montana Citizens for Decency Through Law, argued that the courts got the decision wrong. He said his group opposes the gay “lifestyle” and argued that such an anti-sodomy law has been on the books since statehood because it reflects the values of the state’s residents.

More than a dozen advocates told the Judiciary Committee that it is time to remove the language.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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