Feb 19, 2013 9:13 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

Sexual discrimination debated in Montana Legislature

MT State Senator Christine Kaufmann (D-Helena) says the state's "deviate sexual conduct" laws are antiquated, unconstitutional, and do not reflect Montana values.

Currently, it's a crime to engage in homosexual sex in Montana; Senate Bill 107 would strike that language from Montana code.

Kaufmann said of the existing law, "It says I deserve to be in prison for 10 years for making a family with the woman that I love. It holds me in the same regard as people who rape animals. It tells me every day that I am second-class and that I am not wanted in my home.

She added, "I don't know any reason that they are there, other than to continue to remind me and people like me that we are despised."

No one spoke against the bill, but ten Senators, all Republicans, voted against it.

During the 2011 legislative session, a similar bill passed the Senate but never made it out of the House Judiciary committee.

Earlier in the day the committee heard testimony about how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals face discrimination every day.

House Bill 481 adds "sexual orientation and gender identity" into the Montana Human Rights Act, making it illegal to discriminate against anyone for being gay

Lyle Hamilton, a retired United Methodist minister, said, "We must be free to love whom we love."

Opponents fear this legislation would open up bathrooms to any gender; Dallas Erickson of Montana Citizens for Decency through Law said, "If a business, a government, a youth organization, a school or a church in Montana wants to keep people with penises out of restrooms, showers, and locker rooms reserved for people with vaginas, that would be discrimination."

Right now two Montana cities, Missoula and Helena, already protect the LGBT community from discrimination.


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