Dirty Dancing Exposed

Hot on the heels of my Dirty Dancing post yesterday, Charles Johnson of the Lee State Bureau (Billings Gazette, Missoulian, Independent Record, Montana Standard, Ravalli Republic) has posted an article outlining the complaints against House Judiciary Chair Ken Peterson, R-Billings. Excerpt:

Advocates for civil rights, human rights and abortion rights say they aren’t getting a fair shake from House Judiciary Chairman Ken Peterson, R-Billings, at public hearings.

They are critical of Peterson’s fairness in scheduling and running hearings, his limiting the ability of people to testify or at least state their names, and his failing to stop representatives or witnesses from making inflammatory comments such as calling abortion providers murderers and homosexuality an abomination.

For his part, Peterson, serving his fourth term in the Montana House of Representatives, defended how he runs the committee and dismissed the criticisms.

“I would say they’re absolutely wrong,” he said. “I try to be fair to everybody. That’s my goal. I’m an attorney. I know it’s very important that all parties be treated the same.”

Au contraire!

Johnson’s article continues with numerous examples complaints of unfair treatment from Planned Parenthood,  Civil Liberties Union of Montana and the Montana Human Rights Network- all known organizations that Republicans fear and despise. The shenanigans on display by the Judiciary leadership provides an opportunity for Republicans to use code words to invoke a familiar response to their followers, making over  these human rights groups into bogeymen, conjuring up terror in the hearts of the ignorant and easily led. More:

“The chair is shutting down public comment, he’s shutting down hearings on bills that are life-and-death situations for Montanans,” (Stacy) Anderson (of Planned Parenthood of Montana) said, adding, “I think the civility has degraded, and I think some of the questions to people are degrading.”

…One committee member, Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said she believes Peterson violated House rules by not allowing people to come to the podium and at least state their name and their positions on four bills. She said she couldn’t recall this happening before, but figured out a way around it by reading to the committee the names on the sign-in sheet and having people stand as she called their names.

“It only takes a few minutes for people to stand and say their name,” Sands said. By not allowing people that courtesy, she said, “it shows disrespect to those people and to the legislative process.”

Diane Sands- a giant in Montana human rights as far as I’m concerned, is a shrewd and yet firmly convicted politician who has served this state- well beyond her constituency-with passion, distinction and strength. She’s well worth listening to. And Johnson’s article is worth reading in its entirety.

Maybe twice.

And Carol Williams, D-Missoula’s response for those of you who haven’t seen it:


Press Resulting From/Covering Yesterday’s Human Rights Testimony

I wasn’t prepared for the press covering the GOP’s hijacking of the rights of Montanans to speak in favor of, or against, legislation- I thought it would just be added to the pile of neglected issues stocked in the backrooms of Montana newspapers.

I was wrong.

To quote Dirty Dancing (which is what I’m calling the GOP’s shenanigans): “When I’m wrong, I say I’m wrong” (which is more than they’ll ever do).
From Lee Newspapers:

Social conservatives supported a bill Friday to nullify Missoula’s ordinance that protects residents from discrimination because of their sexual orientation and gender, while human rights advocates lined up against it….Some Democrats also objected to a decision by committee chairman, Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings, to not allow people unable to testify because of time constraints to at least stand and say their names. However, they figured out a way around it by having more than 50 opponents stand as Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, read their each of their names from the sign-up list.

From The Associated Press:

Gay rights advocates were pushing to expand discrimination protection statewide — while conservative religious groups were backing a bill that aims to repeal a Missoula ordinance extending discrimination protection in that city based on sexual orientation.

The contentious nature of the issue and very short hearings on the two bills frayed nerves, as many who drove from out of town to testify were told there wasn’t enough time due to the House committee’s workload.

Next, the blogosphere. The most comprehensive I’ve seen so far is from Towleroad– which also has excellent links, including one to the Montana Public Radio coverage:

Testimony at Montana’s legislature got ugly yesterday over a proposed bill that would kill Missoula’s anti-discrimination ordinance and prevent local municipalities in the state from enacting similar ordinances, instead forcing them to recognize state laws, which currently don’t recognize LGBTs.

Intelligent Discontent provides an excellent roundup of Montana Blog coverage of the issue- I’m proud to stand with these folks. I won’t repeat it- just go have a look.

…and I hope it just strengthens your resolve to stand firm in the face of this bullshit.