The Joke (on us) Has (at least for now) Ended.

Yes, folks, the circus that was the 62nd Legislature of the State of Montana has been officially closed.

It was one of the most contentious sessions in memory- and one of the most publicized. Sadly, for Republicans, it was mostly at their expense. Republican lawmakers introduced the most ridiculed and bigoted legislation in Montana history- giving the state its fair share of national media attention. Only some of it good.

Mostly it was about third-rate candidates such as Billy Bob Wagner, who introduced legislation to reinstate the gold standard, and was laughed at nationally on Anderson Cooper 360 for his ridiculous “birther” bill (but mostly for his stupidity). Then there was Kris Hansen, a “secret lesbian” who introduced one of the most pro-discrimination legislative actions to ever hit the aisles of the Capitol. Mary Cheney, anyone? And the Montana GOP, for no good reason other than to perpetuate hate and shame, voted to keep The Gays illegal- and we heard some of the most disgusting testimony to ever foul a Capitol microphone.

And don’t forget (as if I could) Janna Taylor’s ridiculous, ignorant and dangerous comments about HIV in the Montana prison system. In my opinion, the defining moment of the session. And that is a short list of all the craziness perpetuated at the time and expense of the people of Montana-a better list is here.

But I want to take a minute to thank the legislators who spent a great deal of their time and energy standing up for the rights of Montanans. Diane Sands, Carol Williams, Christine Kaufmann and Bryce Bennett all spent a lot of time defending equality and testifying against discrimination, bigotry and homophobia in this session. If you see any of them, thank them. Buy them a drink.

Hell, give them a kidney if they need one.

It is folks such as these- and all who testified, protested, blogged and wrote letters-, who keep our freedoms alive- and who stand in the face of political bigotry and chicanery.  And let’s not forget Jamee Greer, Mike Wessler, Niki Zupanic and all the representatives of groups who lobbied for human equality- they get all the abuse, ridicule and sleepless nights, but not enough recognition. Drinks and kidneys for them, too.

Let’s give Carol Williams the last word (for now):

“I’m proud of our work.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will wish you luck in the next session probably trying to fix a lot of the things we broke this time.”

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.

Stand Up Against Discrimination!

HB 516, which seeks to overturn the Missoula Ordinance and ban further ordinances of its kind, is coming up in the House Judiciary this Friday at 8 am. Also coming up that session will be HB 514, which seeks to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the Montana Human Rights Act.

Let’s show the legislators how important equality is to Montanans.

For those of you in Missoula, there will be carpooling  to Helena. Meet at the Eastgate Parking Lot at 6 am.

Facebook page here.

Spread the word- PFLAG chapters, parents, siblings, children, allies, come together!