Montana House Advances Bill to Decriminalize Gay Sex

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House is moving forward with a measure that would repeal an obsolete state law that criminalizes gay sex, despite a committee's decision to table it.

Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, made the motion Monday to take Senate Bill 107 out of the House Judiciary Committee and place it on the agenda for a House vote. Bennett, who is gay, said the law emphasizes inequality and pointed to the 1997 Montana Supreme Court case that ruled the language criminalizing gay sex was unconstitutional.

"Under this law, I am considered a felon," Bennett said. "I am not your equal."

Bennett said that even though he won't be prosecuted, he still feels the law's "sting" and resents that Montana law classifies gay sex as sexual deviance, on par with bestiality.

The bill received the necessary 60 votes when minority Democrats were joined by 21 Republicans, who say the measure is about privacy for all Montanans. Two years ago, a similar measure died in the Republican-controlled House after receiving the Senate's approval.

Since then, the Republican Party has removed from its platform language that seeks to make homosexual acts illegal, and some Republicans, like the bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer of Missoula, have voiced their support of the measure.

Some Republicans still oppose the measure, warning that legalizing gay sex would lead to societal degradation and gay sex being taught in schools' sex education classes.

Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, said the House was hypocritical by opening each session with a prayer and blatantly disregarding the Bible.

"If we abandon our moral compass, we will lose our country," Kerns said. "It's as simple as that."

Opponents of the bill also argue that the law allows for the prosecution of child molesters — a point on which the bill's backers vehemently disagree. The bill's backers say child molestation cases are prosecuted under a stricter code called Jessica's Law.

The measure will need the House's endorsement before it can reach Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's desk.

Associated Press

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