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Montana state House committee hears bill to decriminalize gay sex

Sunday, March 17, 2013

HELENA, Mont. — A House panel heard a measure Friday that would remove an obsolete Montana law that criminalizes gay sex by labeling it a deviate sexual behavior on par with bestiality.

Senate Bill 107 seeks to remove that language from the existing statutes, reflecting a 1997 Montana Supreme Court ruling that said the law prohibiting gay sex is unconstitutional.

Montana state capitol in Helena, Mont.

The measure to strike the law has already passed the state Senate in a 39-11 vote, but now is before the House Judiciary Committee — the same panel that killed a similar bill in 2011.

Bill sponsor Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, said cutting the language would grant clarity to law enforcement officials in their attempt to both enforce the law and follow the court’s ruling.

Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena, who spoke in support of the bill on the Senate floor and in the committee, called the existing statute unconstitutional and obsolete.

The words “are only there to remind people that we are indeed second-class citizens, that we are unworthy, that Montana is not a welcoming place for us, that we are despised,” said Kaufmann, who is a lesbian.

But opponents argued the measure goes against Montana’s values, and say the Montana Supreme Court disregarded those values in its ruling in the 1997 case Gryczen v. Montana.

Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Laszloffy said the measure is not a simple “cleanup bill” but a vital component to one of the greatest moral debates of the last 20 years.

Lawmakers should allow the debate to be “settled outside the walls of the Capitol,” he said.

“We haven’t come to grips with who we want to be as a people,” he said.

Other opponents echoed Laszloffy’s concerns. Dallas Erickson of the group Montana Citizens for Decency Through Law said he “dreads that we are slouching toward Gomorrah.”

Linda Gryczen, the plaintiff from the case that struck down the law as unconstitutional, said she has been testifying about this issue since 1989. She said the existing statute is a violation of privacy and echoed many proponents’ beliefs the government shouldn’t interfere with the activities of consenting adults in the bedroom.

Opponents also said they were concerned about being able to prosecute criminals in child molestation cases.

Montana County Attorney Association Representative Mark Murphy said cases of child molestation are prosecuted under Jessica’s Law — a statute that dictates strict penalties for perpetrators — and passage of SB107 bill wouldn’t affect the prosecution of child molesters.

The committee didn’t take immediate action on the bill.

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15 more reader comments:

  1. Well welcome to the 21st century! Doh

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:51pm
  2. Hell, I would be doing life if I were actually prosecuted under that law.

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:52pm
  3. I have a comment about this from a hetero who testified in favor of officially repealing this law. As he stated, when gay rights advocates testify, they only present their extremely strong discriminatory view. Some of think it comes down to how people are viewed and treated in this world. I could go up there and talk about how these scriptures that are seen as a blanket condemnation are not so. All it does is inflame the far rightwingers to get upset and want to vote against this bill. btw Montana is one of 4 states that lists only gay sodomy as a crime. They got the state republican party to drop its opposition to removing this law from the books. The Senate has already passed that viewpoint. It’s Republican leader said, I come from a district with lots of Republicans, Teapartiers and Constiutionalists, but we generally believe in “live and let live”. I think that is a good solution to the current belief of yacking about personal liberty, but then in the next breath propoosing some law that limits people’s rights.

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:53pm
  4. They are 50 years behind Britain and 20 years behind SCOTUS’ Lawrence decision. Ugh.

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:54pm
  5. Stupid considering the Supreme Court already invalidated sodomy laws. It does nothing while appearing to do something.

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:54pm
  6. More like welcome to the 20th century, Montana.

    Seems like the Supreme Court has NO power in this country. Too many people, cites, states just do WTF they want to do just the same.

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 8:59pm
  7. @Troy str8 people can engage in sodomy so it’s not a strictly gay sex act

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 9:01pm
  8. I’m quite aware of this but, What exactly does that have to do with my comment?

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 9:02pm
  9. While it may still be on their books, they could never prosecute and win a case based on it as the SCOTUS declared all such laws as a unconstitutional. This is just tidying up for the people who don’t get that it is no longer a valid law.

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 9:04pm
  10. This should have been done years ago….

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 9:19pm
  11. Ya, you are only about 40 years behind the times. Rednecks, I tell ya!

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 9:24pm
  12. …god I hate being the laughing stock of the world…

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 10:03pm
  13. its about time…

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 10:19pm
  14. o my, guess i was a criminal whilst visiting Montana years ago. lol

    Posted on Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 10:26pm
  15. More and more states speaking out.

    Posted on Monday, March 18, 2013 at 8:35am