Wrong Side Of History

An excellent post by The Montana Cowgirl (reposted with her permission)

Montana lawmakers who have spent the entirety of their paltry careers voting against equality now find themselves on the wrong side of history.  In the wake of the upcoming supreme court decision on equal marriage, no one who reads a newspaper can come to any other conclusion.  Even Rush Limbaugh says marriage equality is inevitable.

The nutjob wing of Montana’s Republican Party  aren’t just wrong, they’re way out in right field, and soon to be there alone.   Montana is one of only four states that has a law on the books that makes being gay an imprisonable offense.  This fact alone is despicable, but when you consider what else the Montana Legislature has done you start to wonder if the Montana legislature isn’t among the most bigoted in America.

Consider this: During the past 21 legislative sessions least 32 bills have been introduced to make all Montanans equal under the law.  Some, like Sen. Facey’s SB 107 attempted to repeal the “deviate sexual conduct” law, other would have prevent discrimination in housing, or stopped the bullying of young people in schools. Many have been introduced by Sen. Christine Kaufmann, of Helena.

Not a single one of these bills has ever passed in the history of this state.

But it’s worse than that.  The Montana legislature isn’t content with blocking equality bills.  They’ve tried year after year to make things worse.
Montana LegislatureLook what they did in 1995, when Republican Senator Rick Holden added an amendment to a bill to require gay men and lesbians to register as felony sex offenders. Democrats tried to remove the amendment, but 32 of 50 Senators voted to keep it in.

It was only after twenty-four hours of scathing national press coverage from CNN that the Republicans were finally forced to take the sex offender amendment out. But not before Billings GOP Sen. Al Bishop decided to share his beliefs with the world.  He said consensual activity between people of the same sex was “a worse offense than rape.” (The bill was HB 214 and predates the online legislative search.)

Anyway, the Chick-Fil-A munching bunch was not happy to be denied a “felony sex offender registry” of gay citizens. A couple of days later anti-gay slurs and graffiti were “scrawled across the doors of the capitol, and a famous statue was defaced. With no sense of irony, and no mention of the anti-gay nature of the spray-painted slogans, Senators introduced a bill to make defacing the capitol a felony.”

And who could forget what happened ten years later in 2005, when the all-day kindergarten was opposed by religious right Repubs, who claimed bill was part of the “gay agenda.” “The purported evidence given by these groups was that gay activists were NOT at the hearing, proving it was part of the activists’ secret agenda.”

Public sentiment is now so firmly behind equality that the reaction to democratic politicians who announce their support at this late date ranges from “who isn’t” to “where were you earlier.”  The Montana Senate even voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

Now, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

Any day now the bill will be voted on in committee, and then on the Floor of the House.  No assumptions can be made about body which includes Verdell Jackson, Krayton Kearns, David Howard and Jerry O’Neil, so start contacting  the lawmakers in the House of Representatives, which you can do via this online form. FYI, you can always use the back button after submitting your message, which allows you to skip retyping all your info when you contact multiple legislators. Or you can cut and paste this list of House GOP legislators.

Conservatives were on the wrong side of history with women’s suffrage, they were on the wrong side of segregation.  Let’s see whose side they’re on now.

See The 10 Montana Senators Who Want Gays To Be Criminals

From Cowgirl:

 

On Tuesday, the Montana Senate voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

 

But yesterday, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

To see them, click here.

Montana Legislature: Taking Its Sweet Time Removing Archaic Hate Language

Last week, I wrote about the inability of the Montana legislature to simply remove outdated hate language from the books:

montanawelcomeThe Montana Senate can’t even take an up-or-down vote on whether or not the law should say gays and lesbians deserve ten years in prison and/or $50,000 fines – simply for being gays and lesbians.

Word is they’re sending the bill back to committee to attach bad amendments to it requested by a Bitterroot-based anti-gay activist, Dallas Erickson. This motion would happen during the Senate floor session, possibly as soon as Wednesday (today).

Why back to committee? If it comes up quietly during an executive action, which can happen at pretty much any time, maybe there won’t be network television news cameras in front of them. Maybe the Associated Press and USAToday will miss it.

Maybe, just maybe, some members of the legislature can get away with labeling gay and lesbian Montanans as “deviates” and “felons” for another year and avoid the national embarrassment that will surely come with such an unfortunate decision.

Yeah, well…. They sent it back to committee on Friday.

Stay tuned.

Montana Legislature: Actively Working To Shame Gay People

Updated. See below….
Things seemed hopeful at the start of this session. From the Great Falls Tribune:

SHAME

SHAME (Photo credit: BlueRobot)

The Montana Supreme Court in 1997 ruled as unconstitutional the portion of the deviate sexual relations law that includes “sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex” in the definition that also includes bestiality.

Senate Bill 107, carried by Sen. Tom Facey, would remove it from state code. The Missoula Democrat said the time has come to strike a law that is unenforceable and offensive.

“Words do matter. I hope you can pass this bill to get the unconstitutional words out of our code,” Facey said.

Groups opposed to the law have tried for years to get the Legislature to formally strike language they argue is hurtful. Two years ago, a similar proposal to repeal the law cleared the Senate only to die in the more conservative House.

But since then, the Montana Republican Party has removed from its platform the position that it seeks to make homosexual acts illegal. The party remains opposed to gay marriage.

Freshman Republican state Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer, of Superior, said he is co-sponsoring the measure because it “respects the rights of Montanans.”

But that was then, this is now. Jamee Greer, lobbyist for the Montana Human Rights Network said this yesterday:

The Montana Senate can’t even take an up-or-down vote on whether or not the law should say gays and lesbians deserve ten years in prison and/or $50,000 fines – simply for being gays and lesbians.

Word is they’re sending the bill back to committee to attach bad amendments to it requested by a Bitterroot-based anti-gay activist, Dallas Erickson. This motion would happen during the Senate floor session, possibly as soon as Wednesday (today).

Why back to committee? If it comes up quietly during an executive action, which can happen at pretty much any time, maybe there won’t be network television news cameras in front of them. Maybe the Associated Press and USAToday will miss it.

Maybe, just maybe, some members of the legislature can get away with labeling gay and lesbian Montanans as “deviates” and “felons” for another year and avoid the national embarrassment that will surely come with such an unfortunate decision.

Maybe, just maybe.

Maybe they’ll knock it off if we get enough attention on this issue. Anyone have Rachel Maddow’s number?

Update From Jamee: The Senate has not moved SB107 back to committee during floor session today- to amend or “kill” the bill “quietly” in committee….

This can still happen during any floor session, so until they finally give the bill an up-or-down vote, it is in play.

It is a simple question: do you think gays deserve to be associated in the law with those who molest animals, and punished by fines of $50,000 and ten years in jail?

JUST VOTE ALREADY!

Better Know a Legislator: Sen. Christine Kaufmann and Sen. Jeff Essmann

In today’s edition of “Better Know a Legislator” I’ll profile one of my favorite legislators, Sen. Christine Kaufmann (D-Helena), as well as one of my least favorite, Sen. Jeff Essmann (R-Billings).

Sen. Christine Kaufmann, SD 41

Image

Sen. Christine Kaufmann, is one of the few unabashed progressive champions in the Montana legislature. She constantly impresses me with her ability to think strategically, while maintaining her commitment to her values.

This year she’ll be beginning her second session representing Helena in the Senate. She previously also served in the Montana House. She is one of the first (and only current) openly gay women serving in the Montana legislature. I personally had hoped she would serve in leadership in the Senate, but unfortunately she did not seek one of these positions. Hopefully in 2015 she will seek a leadership positionSen. Kaufmann is arguably the progressive champion in the Montana Senate, a quick examination of her bill draft requests will show why. This year she is seeking to create an earned income tax credit, to revise the administration of oil and gas taxes , to increase the power of the state’s top political cop and to revise the so-called “castle doctrine” law. These are tough fights, and many of them are fights that (with the current makeup of the legislature) will not succeed. But Sen. Kaufmann understands the importance of beginning a discussion on these issues, because hopefully, that discussion will move political discourse in a more progressive direction.

When not serving as a legislator, Sen. Kaufmann works in the State Auditor’s office on health care issues for Montanans. She previously worked at (and was a founder of) the Montana Human Rights Network.

Sen. Jeff Essmann, SD 28

Sen. Jeff Essmann

I don’t want to take personal shots at legislators in these profiles, but I have to say Sen. Jeff Essmann is one of the most detestable people to ever be elected to office in Montana.

Essmann will serve as the Senate President in 2013–a position he acquired after staging a coup against the former Senate president Jim Peterson (R-Buffalo). Essmann and his fellow tea party extremists claimed that they were staging the coup because Peterson embarrassed them with his “Code of the West” bill from 2011. It’s worth noting that not only did Essmann vote for the Code of the West bill, but he also supported even more embarrassing bills that sought to legalize spear hunting, would give local sheriffs control over international terrorism investigations in their communities and he opposed a measure to remove the  unconstitutional law that criminalizes LGBT people in the state of Montana.

During his 2011 session, Essmann was also one of the leaders in the efforts to repeal the voter approved law allowing the use of medical cannabis in Montana. Montanafesto has covered his shady efforts on this front.

Essmann got his start in the Senate after Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger became part of Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration. He promptly trashed Bohlinger’s bipartisan record in that seat in order to become a partisan ideologue.

Essmann announced that he would run for governor in 2012. But after holding a bizarre conference call announcing his campaign, Essmann dropped out just a few weeks later, prompting some to suspect a scandal in his past.

Essmann will surely run an extreme Senate that will seek conflict over common ground when dealing with Governor-elect Bullock.

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.

Press From Yesterday

The Missoulian (of course) printed the most info on the HB 516 hearing yesterday:

A crowd of people, many of them from Missoula, showed up Monday to oppose a bill that would nullify the city’s 2010 ordinance that protects residents from discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender and gender expression.

A smaller group of people, some of whom fought the Missoula ordinance last year, came to support House Bill 516 by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, at a hearing before the Senate Local Government Committee.

It was a low-key hearing compared to the at-times boisterous House Judiciary Committee hearing last month.

Hansen’s bill would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or other policies like Missoula’s that cover, as a protected class from actual discrimination, any groups not now included in the Montana Human Rights Act.

She questioned the legality of the Missoula ordinance, saying it could take several years for such a challenge to get through courts here.

“My bill prevents that,” she said. “It declares that the state is preemptive in the field. I believe that state law does preempt in this area.”

I even got a mention:

Gregory Smith, who was a chaplain to the Legislature in 1993, said he is a therapist whose patients includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“I am a gay man and a native Montanan,” he said. “We want to live our lives happily and from fear in the state we grew up in.”

Smith said the bill ignores a suffering segment of Montana’s population and is “enshrining bigotry and discrimination.

Read the full story here.