My Statements Re: HB 516, HB 514

February 18, 2011

Montana Legislators,

RE MT HB 516:

  1. Every community should have the right to decide its own ordinances of inclusion. Ordinances of exclusion, usually reserved for dictatorships, theocratic states and societies of intolerance are another matter.
  2. Creating a law that disallows protection is counterintuitive to the purpose of government as set forth in both the Federal and State Constitutions, in which are stated explicitly the government’s purpose to protect the citizenry from discrimination, violence and other harms.
  3. This is an attempt to write prejudice and bigotry into the law. It is an attempt to tie local ordinances to State law in a way which keeps government from evolving as understanding, both scientific and social, creating a top-down model, instead of a cooperative, interdynamic process.
  4. It is a blatant and ignorant effort to push a personal agenda of intolerance toward LGBT persons in obvious defiance of biological, social and psychological science.
  5. This bill is discrimination and rejection of the right of communities to protect the citizens as they believe necessary. It enshrines bigotry, ignorance and personal belief in defiance of science, human experience and freedom.

RE HB 514:

1.  The reality of difference in sexual orientation and gender identity is acknowledged by this bill.

2.  The scientific evidence and positions of the scientific community regarding the reality of different sexual identities/orientations and the fluidity of gender identities are clear. The American Psychological Association recognizes the reality of heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. The APA also advocates against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Regarding sexual orientation:

Research has found that the people who have the most positive attitudes toward gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals are those who say they know one or more gay, lesbian or bisexual person well, often as a friend or co-worker. For this reason, psychologists believe that negative attitudes toward gay people as a group are prejudices that are not grounded in actual experience but are based on stereotypes and mis-information. Furthermore, protection against violence and discrimination are very important, just as they are for any other minority groups. Some states include violence against an individual on the basis of his or her sexual orientation as a “hate crime,” and ten U.S. states have laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Regarding gender identity:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT APA opposes all public and private discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity and expression and urges the repeal of discriminatory laws and policies;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT APA supports the passage of laws and policies protecting the rights, legal benefits, and privileges of people of all gender identities and expressions;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT APA supports full access to employment, housing, and education regardless of gender identity and expression;

The American Medical Association says the following:

AMA Policy Regarding Sexual Orientation
General Policies:

H-65.992 Continued Support of Human Rights and Freedom. Our AMA continues (1) to support the dignity of the individual, human rights and the sanctity of human life, and (2) to oppose any discrimination based on an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin or age and any other such reprehensible policies. (Sub. Res. 107, A-85; Modified by CLRPD Rep. 2, I-95; Reaffirmation A-00; Reaffirmation A-05; Modified: BOT Rep. 11, A-07)

H-65.983 Nondiscrimination Policy. The AMA affirms that it has not been its policy now or in the past to discriminate with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. (Res. 1, A-93; Reaffirmed: CCB Rep. 6, A-03; Modified: BOT Rep. 11, A-07)

H-65.990 Civil Rights Restoration. The AMA reaffirms its long-standing policy that there is no basis for the denial to any human being of equal rights, privileges, and responsibilities commensurate with his or her individual capabilities and ethical character because of an individual’s sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or transgender status, race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, national origin, or age. (BOT Rep. LL, I-86; Amended by Sunset Report, I-96; Modified: Res. 410, A-03)

Does Montana want to ignorantly proceed against the example of these two esteemed organizations?

3. Protection is not a special right, it is an equal right. We all have the right to live in peace and without the threat of violence, discrimination or subjugation. Studies and experience show that LGBT persons are constantly subject to bigotry, violence, and harassment. Indeed, LGBT teens are the highest risk group for suicide attempt and completion. Much of that is due to oppressive or negligent laws that fail to promote a sense of self-worth for every law-abiding citizen.

4. Montana has a history of live and let live. Without this bill, the lives of a significant number of Montanans are prevented from being full lives of integrity and equality. Without this bill, you continue to promote a second and third class of Montanans.

Sincerely,

D. Gregory Smith, MA, LMHCA

Butte