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!

More On Montana Domestic Partnerships Appeal

The post I put up yesterday wasn’t alone, the Montana ACLU appeal got some good coverage over at Towleroad, and I also wrote a bit more of an in-depth piece at Bilerico. Excerpt:

As Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director for the Montana ACLU told me today:

“Montana’s Constitution is clear. Everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law. When our plaintiffs are being denied bereavement leave, access to medical information and death benefits they are not being treated fairly under the law. Montanans support treating same-sex couples fairly and providing them with the legal recognition they need to care for and protect their families. The Montana Supreme Court is the place where we can make that happen for Montana’s same-sex couples.”The decision to go to the Supreme Court just makes sense. The Montana Constitution has an obvious discrepancy here. Fair and equal treatment of persons can’t be applied arbitrarily – it has to apply across the board – and that includes people in same-sex relationships. Judge Sherlock did not rule on the constitutionality question in April, only that he couldn’t order the legislature to make any changes. The Supreme Court is the next logical step to clarify this issue.

Hopefully, it will clarify in favor of gay and lesbian relationship recognition, and not against.

For the rest of the story- and to add comments, click here.

2011 Election Results- An LGBT Glance

In State politics, candidates who favor inclusive policies for LGBT persons won seats on City Councils in Missoula and Helena. Caitlin Copple of Missoula and Katherine Haque-Hausrath of Helena both ran on inclusive policy platforms- and it didn’t seem to hurt their electability- although the races weren’t quite runaways.

Nationally, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force gives a great rundown:

Supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Michigan’s Traverse City, workers’ rights in Ohio, women’s reproductive freedom in Mississippi, and voters’ rights in Maine were among those scoring big victories in the Nov. 8 election. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force assisted in many of these efforts.

Full story here. 

But the best national rundown comes from Towleroad (which includes our own Caitlin Copple!):

Overall, LGBT candidates and causes scored huge wins in yesterday’s elections. Here’s a round-up of some of the highlights and stinkers. Apologies if I’ve missed any. Please add them in the comments section.

Read more: http://www.towleroad.com/2011/11/election-results-highlights-and-stinkers.html#ixzz1dEU0YpGV

 

The President at HRC: Nothing To Sniff At

I was going to give a bit of a recap of President Obama’s address to the Human Rights Campaign diners on October 1st- but when someone else already does what you would have done anyway- and probably better, it’s best to just get out of the way.

Over at Towleroad, the recap included some important points:

President Obama was urged this week to come out for gay marriage in his address to the Human Rights Campaign. He didn’t do so last night – not explicitly. But did he imply it? Toward the speech’s end, he cited New York’s marriage law as a triumph of democratic change. Might that be an indirect way of saying, “I’m with you on marriage”?

It’s progress led not by Washington but by ordinary citizens, who are propelled not just by politics but by love and friendship and a sense of mutual regard. It’s playing out in legislatures like New York, and courtrooms and in the ballot box. (…) It happens when a father realizes he doesn’t just love his daughter, but also her wife.

It’s disappointing that the president won’t make his “evolving” position clear. But last night’s speech was nonetheless a juggernaut. It opened with a wisecrack: “I also took a trip out to California last week, where I held some productive bilateral talks with your leader, Lady Gaga.” Snarky, yes: Gaga as Kim Jong-Il. The president throwing shade.

Joking aside, he seemed acutely aware of the complaint he’s getting from the LGBT community: that he’s too slow on civil rights. So he reminded us that he has never counseled patience in the fight, which he conflated with the movement for black civil rights. Then, without sounding triumphal, he went through the stack of accomplishment in his first term: hate-crime legislation, DADT repeal, abandonment of the government’s legal defense of DOMA (whose repeal he backs), lifting of the HIV travel ban, the “first comprehensive national strategy” to combat HIV/AIDS, hospital visitation rights for gay partners. (He didn’t mention the State Department’s new policy that makes it easier for transsexuals to change their passports.) (emphasis mine)

Nothing to sniff at.

Indeed. We may sometimes forget that this president has done more for LGBT equality than every other president before him.

We shouldn’t.

Read the full story here.

Denny Rehberg’s Pal Michele Bachmann-Pwned!

From Towleroad:

Cenk Uygur takes on Michele Bachmann’s extreme positions on social issues like gays and abortion during her recent trip to Iowa, and going way back during her first days as a Minnesota lawmaker.

Incidentally, Cenk refers to a moment when Bachmann hid in the bushes during a gay rights rally in Minnesota. I went back and dug through my archives to find the post I wrote about it back in April 2005. That was like anti-gay gay boot camp for what she’s doing now.

Crazy Quilt

She was invited by Rehberg to the Montana Republicans Lincoln/Reagan Dinner (named after non-Montanans- guess they couldn’t find any notables like Mansfield/Metcalfe). And the Republican higher-ups simply GUSHED:

“Congresswoman Bachmann is a leading voice for conservative Republicans.  She is in great demand for speaking engagements throughout the country.  We are very fortunate Michele Bachmann will be our guest in Montana’s capital city and are grateful for Congressman Rehberg’s assistance in making this possible,” said Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee chairman Bridget Holland.

Rehberg’s casual, snide flinging of the word “Obamacare” is obviously modeled on his crazy-eyed pal- who uses it at least once every time she’s interviewed. She’s so obviously entrenched in Crazyland- and completely unencumbered by the facts/truth. But watch for yourself. And remember: this is who Denny Rehberg aspires to be….

Illegal No More?

Balancing the week, indeed. The Montana State Senate voted to strike the obsolete law criminalizing the gay.

The Montana Supreme Court struck down the law in 1997, and Senate Bill 276 carried by Sen. Tom Facey would remove it from state code. The Missoula Democrat said the measure would provide equal protection under the law for all Montanans.

The Senate endorsed the bill 41-9 with 19 of 28 Senate Republicans supporting the measure. It has one more usually procedural vote before it goes to the House.

Republican backing for the measure goes against years of support for outlawing homosexual acts, which became part of the official party platform after the 1997 Supreme Court decision.

We’ll see if House Republicans want to make a point out of this one…

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.