HB 516 Returned To Committee

HB 516, the legislation written to overturn the rights of local governments to enact protection ordinances, has been returned to the Local Governance Committee. Mike Wessler:

Throughout the session, we have been following Rep. Hansen’s pro-discrimination bill. This bill seeks to nullify Missoula’s non-discrimination ordinance that expands protections in the state’s human rights act to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Hansen’s bill would also prohibit any other city from passing similar measures.

Last Friday, supporters of equality and dignity in our state were dealt a blow when the bill received approval from its Senate committee. With this decision by the committee, the bill was headed for it’s final debate–a full debate on the Senate floor…or so we thought.

Today, shortly before the full Senate was slated to debate the measure, Republicans–out of nowhere–asked that the bill be sent back to committee. They cited the revelation of new information as their reason for this action. The bill was quickly returned to the committee.

While at this point, we cannot say anything definitive about the reason …, however, if history teaches us anything, it is that when bills are sent back to committee, it is not a good sign for the ultimate fate of the bill. One can’t help but wonder if today’s polling on the actions of the GOP scared a few of them out of supporting such a discriminatory measure.

And maybe my last post about the miserable treatment LGBT persons have received at the hands of this legislature had something to do with it.

Nah.
They’re not that smart.

Update: The Associated Press reports:

A Republican senator says a measure to overturn a Missoula city ordinance that protects gay people from discrimination lacks support from GOP leadership.

The Senate Local Government Committee passed House Bill 516 last week. But the bill was returned to the committee Tuesday and chairman Sen. Jon Sonju says it is doubtful the measure will go to the Senate floor.

Sonju says he moved the measure back to committee because it doesn’t have the support of Senate leaders.

The proposal, carried by Republican Rep. Kristin Hansen, drew lengthy testimony during its hearings in the House and Senate.

Supporters said the bill would overturn an unconstitutional ordinance that infringes on the state’s authority.

Opponents said the measure is targeted against the gay community and interferes with local governments’ ability to govern.

Hey!

…against HB 516? Hearing starts Monday at 3pm in Room 405 of the Montana State Capitol Building.

I suggest printing two copies of your statement and bring it with you in case the monkey business of last time is repeated.

Here’s mine:

Regarding HB 516, I speak in opposition for several reasons.

  • Every community should have the right to decide its own ordinances of inclusion. Ordinances of exclusion, which is what this is, are historically used by dictatorships, theocratic states and societies of intolerance- which I fervently hope is not your intention.
  • 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 and responsibility to protect its citizenry from discrimination, violence and other harms.
  • 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 our understanding does- both scientific and social, creating a top-down model, instead of a cooperative, inter-dynamic process. State laws and statutes are informed by the experience of the people- don’t disregard the deliberate and intentional process engaged in by sizable numbers of Montanans- processes which inform the future of our government.
  • I am a gay man, a native Montanan. My partner is a native Montanan. All we want is to live our lives happily and free from fear in the state we both grew up in. This bill tells me we shouldn’t have the right to be happy here.

  • I am also a therapist, I work primarily with LGBT persons. The stories of fear and prejudice that I hear almost daily are heart-breaking. The stories of bullying and violence are also all too common and very real right here in the State of Montana. This bill simply ignores the needs of a suffering segment of the population who deserve to feel safe.
  • This bill is discrimination. It is rejection of the right of communities to protect their citizens as they believe necessary. It removes the power to govern from local citizens, enshrining bigotry, ignorance and personal belief in defiance of science, human experience and the freedom of local governance.

Respectfully submitted,
D Gregory Smith, MA, stl