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Montana House Blocks Attempt to Decriminalize Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

March 30th, 2011

The Montana House last night shot down an attempt to remove the state’s law making consensual gay sex illegal. Even though laws like Montana’s was struck down by the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision Lawrence v Texas, Montana lawmakers in the house moved to preserve the unconstitutional law yesterday:

The motion by Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, to blast Senate Bill 276 out of the House Judiciary Committee, received 51 votes in the 100-member House but failed to secure the 60 votes needed. The vote was 51-47.

The Senate passed SB276, by Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, 35-14, but the House Judiciary Committee tabled the bill.

Before the court ruling in 1997, gays and lesbians in Montana risked being charged with felonies and if convicted, they could have faced a maximum penalty of a 10-year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine, said Sands, a lesbian.

Incredibly, this was the reason given for the law’s retention:

Rep. Ken Peterson

Judiciary Chairman Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings, who is an attorney, said the Supreme Court didn’t find the law unconstitutional.

Its ruling held that same-sex adults, in private, not-for-commercial purposes, are protected by the right to privacy, Peterson said. The court didn’t say the law was unconstitutional, he said.

“It should not be repealed because of situations it might apply in,” he said.

In other arguments to keep the law, Rep. Michael More, R-Gallatin Gateway, reportedly cited Scripture, natural law and “eternal law.”



March 30th, 2011 | LINK

WyWatch awarded him the AssHat of the month prize. Congrats Ken!

dan Hayward
March 30th, 2011 | LINK

These homo-phobic republicans (mostly) who concern themselves with peoples’ COMPLETELY PRIVATE LIVES and consensual decisions, instead of issues that their job as legislators REQUIRES them to attend to, are wasting their time and the peoples’ money and energies by bringing their PERSONAL prejudices into their jobs. They should be strongly reprimanded (actually should be impeached) for their misuse of state funds and their authority….

I wish these petty, little, foolish right-wingers would Get Over It!!!. Grow up and do your jobs!!!!!.

Maurice Lacunza
March 30th, 2011 | LINK

If you need a reason to not live in Montana, this is it. I love Montana but I find this legislative action stone aged.

Heck y’all, even Wyoming saw their way out of a paper bag when they recently didn’t pass anti-gay legislation.

Even the Montana Supreme Court ruled anti-gay. I am going to post this article and email it to my Montana friends. They must hate me by now.

Lindoro Almaviva
March 30th, 2011 | LINK

I bet this whole situation will be solved when some over reaching a-hole messes with the wrong person and the state ends up being sued for violating the civil rights of people and ends up paying millions in damages and legal fees.

Apparently that is the only way some people learn.

Reed Boyer
March 30th, 2011 | LINK

How lovely (not): a return to those halcyon days of yore, when we were all “sexual outlaws.” John Rechy, take note. Everything old is new again.

March 30th, 2011 | LINK

It’s well past time to dispel the notion that natural law theory is antigay.

Some practitioners have coded a specific antigay moral theory, using the precepts of natural law.

However, ‘natural law’ itself is not antigay.

That is, other practitioners, including religious and social conservatives, are free to fashion a ‘natural law’ that is not needlessly (or recklessly) exclusive of gays or gay marriage and, at the same time, is not a philosophical invitation (or legal one) to some strange liberalization scheme.

This includes the “new” natural law theory, which threw off the old “perverted faculty argument” about homosexuality in favor of a different precept or two.

Timothy Kincaid
March 30th, 2011 | LINK

I guess the slightly light gray (if not quite silver) lining is that the House has 68 Republicans and 32 Democrats. So at least 19 Republicans do not believe that their personal animus trumps the US Constitution.

Also, this was a vote on whether to bring it out of committee, not a vote on the bill. It’s possible that a few “no” votes were from people who didn’t want to go on record.

Okay, it’s not much, but it’s better than a straight-party-line. Especially in Montana where Republican control is pretty much assured for the foreseeable future.

Timothy Kincaid
March 30th, 2011 | LINK


Based on my observation, “natural law” as currently used in the US means “the teachings of the Catholic Church”.

March 30th, 2011 | LINK

@Amicus (and anyone else), “Natural law” is the new “jesus said so” for the far right.

Have you seen FRC’s “Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex Marriage”?

The FRC and others are using these materials to “train” pastors and others in Iowa.

It’s Jesus-lite and tries to pass off “natural law” as though it were some actual legal argument.

In theory, I’m sure it could be different. In practice, it’s the center-piece of their new anti-gay talking points.

March 30th, 2011 | LINK

Report after report, we are seeing these anti-gay garbage come up recently all over the country. So, we complain and whine about it on these blogs, but what is being done about it? Why isn’t there some form of recall action against this guy in Montana. Words are cheap, action is what counts and I don’t see any action from the gay population of this country to do anything about it. And they know it so they get away with it.

March 30th, 2011 | LINK


I do not disagree, however, it is being used to give antigay arguments the patina of “reason” and the potentially prejudicial connotations “natural”.

Pointing out that there is no need for “natural law” to be antigay denies them the “black and white fallacy” at the heart of their propaganda, either you believe, with us, or you are part of a “fashionable ideology” (cf. Manhattan Declaration).

Also at risk is their courtroom assertion that they have an appeal to reason in “new natural law”, even to moral reason. Once one reconstructs so that “natural law” is inclusive of the natural fact of gays – yes, fact, not “choice”, then it becomes fairly obvious that their appeal to reason is really their other propaganda technique, i.e. an “appeal to prejudice”.

March 30th, 2011 | LINK

Is he right about the SCOTUS ruling? Was it just about privacy, or were anti-sodomy laws specifically ruled unconstitutional? So I guess “natural law” and “eternal law” are the Christian equivalent of Sharia Law.

Ben in Oakland
March 31st, 2011 | LINK

If I recall, Ryan, the Texas decision speicifcally said that bowers vs. hardwicke was wronly decided, but i oculd be wrong about that.

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