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Montana governor signs bill to strike down obsolete sodomy law

Thursday, April 18, 2013

HELENA, Mont. — An obsolete law deeming gay sex as deviant — akin to bestiality — was stricken from Montana code Thursday, prompting gay rights activists to say they hope that full legal equality may be close at hand.

When Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 107 decriminalizing gay sex, cheers erupted in the Capitol’s Rotunda. It had been 16 years after the state Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional and 24 years after gay rights activists began their fight to take government out of the bedroom.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks to a crowd at a ceremony signing into law a gay rights bill that has been in the works for two decades.
Photos: Matt Gouras, AP

“I am not going to speak too long because, frankly, the longer I talk, the longer this embarrassing and unconstitutional law stays on the books,” Bullock said.

The victory, though a powerful one for the gay community in Montana, is highly symbolic with no tangible benefits aside from striking the obsolete law condemning gay sex from Montana code.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, left, state Sen. Tom Facey and advocate Linda Gryczan.

The outdated code has not been used to prosecute individuals for years. And previous efforts to offer gays and lesbians protection under the law, including a push to prohibit civil discrimination, have been thwarted by a GOP-controlled Legislature.

Rep. Jerry Bennett, R-Libby, said he holds no ill will toward gay people, but he and other Republicans opposed the legislation and similar efforts along religious lines. He added that there is a bi-partisan movement to “protect the family,” defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and gay rights efforts could have “long-term ramifications.”

“This isn’t over,” he said. “We will see a continual push for recognition of unions … for health insurance. All kinds of things will come out of this.”

The decriminalization bill passed the House on a 64-35 vote, and it cleared the Senate 38-11. In both cases, Republicans joined minority Democrats to advance the legislation, as gay rights activists hailed their success as a sea change within the GOP.

“In the past we’ve seen members of the Republican caucus say, I can’t stand with you because it will cost me my re-election,” said activist Jamee Greer, a lobbyist with the Montana Human Rights Network.

Gay rights activists are hopeful the bi-partisan effort is a catalyst for further change. They say that gay equality aligns itself with the fundamental libertarian values of privacy and a live-and-let live attitude pervasive in Montana — especially among Republicans who subscribe to a strong Libertarian undercurrent.

This year an effort to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing and employment was tabled by a conservative House committee. That plan and another to legalize gay marriage remain priorities in future sessions, Greer said.

“As more and more LGBT people come out to their friends and their neighbors,” Greer said, “it’s going to be harder to discriminate against them.”

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14 more reader comments:

  1. It’s a good start.

    Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:45pm
  2. Yeah, it is a good start. Finally, someone did something right.

    Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:53pm
  3. We’re on our way. Equality will ultimately win out, always. We’re almost there.

    Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 10:58pm
  4. Woohoo!!! ^_^

    Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 11:01pm
  5. Great

    Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 11:01pm
  6. Why do they think sodomy is only gay sex???

    Posted on Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 11:14pm
  7. About time!

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 12:25am
  8. Awesome! Another step in the right direction.

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 1:32am
  9. Now maybe he can have anal sex with his wife and boyfriend comfortably! Lol

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 1:33am
  10. Hooray, sodomy tonight!

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 1:57am
  11. Geez…talk about baby steps.

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 2:35am
  12. we are no closer today that 50 years ago…wait we are – now it is NOT insane to be GAY but still a criminal act in one form or another!

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 3:13am
  13. Welcome to the 19th Century Montana.

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 4:35am
  14. I suppose that’s good news, but wtf!

    Posted on Friday, April 19, 2013 at 5:43am