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MT gov’s race features big difference on social issues – but Gia - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

MT gov’s race features big difference on social issues – but Gianforte says it's not that relevant

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte
Gov. Steve Bullock Gov. Steve Bullock

Of the many differences between Gov. Steve Bullock and his GOP challenger, Greg Gianforte, few are starker than their views on social issues like abortion, gay rights, and same-sex marriage.  

Yet Gianforte – who opposes abortion and same-sex marriage – says he doesn’t regard this division as a big deal for voters.

“I don’t have any particular agenda around these things,” he told MTN News in an interview this week. “I will defend life, because I think we need a culture of life. But I’m running because I think we need more high-wage jobs, and that’s going to be my focus.”

Bullock, however, says he thinks Gianforte is trying to soft-pedal the issue, because “his values aren’t necessarily Main Street, mainstream Montana values.”

“Look at the last 10 years; he’s been giving money that has directly tried to influence public policy (on these issues), in Montana and around the country,” he told MTN News. “You can’t just take the last 10 months.”

Bullock, a Democrat, supports a woman’s right to have an abortion, gay rights and same-sex marriage – in fact, he presided over a same-sex marriage last year involving one of his former staffers.

“When it comes to a woman’s right of choice, I’ve said for a long time, that difficult decisions ought to be made by the woman, in consultation with her faith, her health-care provider and her family,” he said. “It sure shouldn’t be made by government, and it sure shouldn’t be made by Greg Gianforte.”

Gianforte’s family charity has long supported the Montana Family Foundation and Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colo., two public-policy groups that have staunchly opposed abortion, same-sex marriage or gay rights.  

Gianforte won’t say if he supports more restrictions on abortion in Montana, or whether he’d like to see the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that essentially legalized abortion nationwide.

“I am pro-life, and I think life is precious, and that it should be protected,” he says when asked about specifics of his stance on abortion.

He does say he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, but that since same-sex marriage has been legalized by various court decisions, as governor he would uphold the law and the Constitution.

Bullock said he would support a state law that prohibits discrimination against anyone because of their sexual orientation. Montana has no such state law. Republican state lawmakers have routinely killed such proposals at Montana’s Legislature, but some Montana cities have passed local non-discrimination ordinances for gays and lesbians.

Bullock said he also would oppose adoption in Montana of “religious freedom” laws, which have been passed by some states and which critics say are designed to allow people to cite their religious beliefs as justification for discriminating against gays or lesbians.

Gianforte said he wouldn’t be pushing any such proposal, if elected: “Personally, I think we already have (a religious freedom law) – it’s called the First Amendment.”

Bullock said some states that passed such laws have seen an economic backlash, as organizations that oppose discrimination cancel business in the state.

“What we’ve seen is, this is more than just a values issue; it’s a sheer economic issue,” he said.

Gianforte said out on the campaign trail, people aren’t asking him about social issues – they’re asking about jobs, and that’s what he’ll make a priority as governor.

“As I’ve traveled 60,000 miles all over the state, what I’ve heard from the people of Montana, over and over again, is we need more high-wage jobs,” he said. “My top agenda items are going to be jobs.”

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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