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Montana state Senate moves to strike obsolete law that criminalizes gay sex

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Senate on Tuesday overwhelming backed a measure to strike an obsolete state law that criminalizes gay sex — a proposal that still faces an uncertain path in the House.

Senate Bill 107 repeals an anti-gay law that was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 by the Montana Supreme Court. But 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 and 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 bill, and it passed with little fanfare by a chamber that would clearly like to stop debating the bill.

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 are now allowing 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, like those that protect many minorities, to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“These are our sons, our daughters, our neighbors, our constituents, and our friends,” McClafferty said. “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.

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15 more reader comments:

  1. Wtf? Fuck you Montana! You stupid ass cur senate!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:11pm
  2. It is about time Montana. Dylan go climb under a rock.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:14pm
  3. … dylan this is a good thing lmao

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:15pm
  4. No Dylan they are abolishing the law so it is no longer illegal.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:16pm
  5. Dylan they are doing a good thing (finally). They are REMOVING a old law making gay sex illegal. so it will BE legal soon. Then you can stop eye-ing the sheep. ok sound good to you now? lol

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:17pm
  6. Dylan, this is a good thing. Relax!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:21pm
  7. Than God for Montana! Hopefully this is a step in the right direction for our country!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:28pm
  8. Maybe Dylan really doesn’t want the law repealed

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 2:34pm
  9. In case anyone’s wondering, the amendment to the law that the article is referring to is actually about prosecutions for childhood sexual abuse. They’re changing the definition of “Deviate sexual relations” (among other things): http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/2013/billhtml/SB0107.htm

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 3:19pm
  10. Great for this state to enter the 20th century – at last !

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 3:26pm
  11. Judith. No. Just no. That’s the fearmongering BS that people are trying to run a great bill off the rails with. Child sexual abuse is still illegal. It doesn’t soften the law nor could keeping it on the books make it have more teeth. It was ruled unconstitutional in the US and by the Montana Supreme Court already. It just needs to be off the books and in our past.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:27pm
  12. It’s just formality. The Supreme Court in 2003 made all 50 states have no more sodomy laws against homosexuals.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:47pm
  13. It’s a formality but it sets a poor standard for our future and the fundies still refer to it standing.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:56pm
  14. slow step in the right direction

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 5:16pm
  15. Pardon? The link goes to the law they’re changing. Which is changing a definition under their child sexual abuse bill to make the definition of “Deviate sexual relations” no longer contain “sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex”.
    That’s A GOOD THING, whatever the context.
    I’m just providing a link. The fact that sexual intercourse between two people of the same sex was/is lawfully defined as “deviate” (or deviant) for no other reason is ridiculous.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 6:52pm