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, others 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.
Look 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 Kerns, 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.