Bryce Bennett | Gay Rights | Montana | News

Montana Poised to Repeal Law Criminalizing Homosexuality: VIDEO

Yesterday I posted gay Montana Rep. Bryce Bennett's powerful floor speech in support of repealing the state's statutes which criminalize gay sex. The Montana House took a vote on it yesterday, and it was decisive, the Billings Gazette reports:

B_bennettAfter a half-hour of emotional debate for and against the measure, the House voted 64-36 to endorse Senate Bill 107, one day after House members narrowly voted to remove it from the House Judiciary Committee, where it had been tabled on a party-line vote with Republicans in favor.

“It’s not about encouraging a lifestyle,” said Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, one of the Legislature’s only openly gay members. “It’s simply about respecting privacy between two adults. … It’s just as simple as saying that all Montanans deserve dignity and respect.”

Twenty-five Republicans joined all 39 House Democrats to support the bill, which removes gay sex from the definition of the crime of “deviate sexual relations,” a felony that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $50,000.

Sodomy_montana38 Republicans voted to keep the unconstitutional language on Montana's books:

Kerns' stance, and the fact that 38 Republicans effectively voted to keep gay sex a felony, incensed Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte).

"It was so hard to sit through that and not walk across the floor and punch him," Curtis said of Kerns in a video uploaded on YouTube. "That's so offensive. Talk about starting a fight."

"...To say that our friends and our neighbors and our brothers and sisters and our cousins, aunts and uncles should be felons, and we support this because the Bible says so?... It's wrong," Curtis railed, accusing two of the Republican lawmakers who oppose the bill of "promoting hate."

A final vote in the House is set to happen as earlly as today.

Buzzfeed's Chris Geidner spoke with Bennett following the second reading of the bill:

"It feels like we're entering a new day in the state ... and people are ready to move on from this discussion of whether homosexuality should be legal or not," Bennett told BuzzFeed Tuesday shortly after the second reading of a bill to formally repeal the state's sodomy law....

..."While it's exciting that we got this point ... we've got a number of steps to take forward before we can tackle other issues to make sure everyone in our state is truly equal," he said.

Watch a report from KRTV on the debate and vote, AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. LOL. It's funny how no one ever challenged being arrested under such law. The arrest of course would have been thrown out, and high courts would have nullified the law. Presumably very few if any have been charged with the 'crime' for a long time, now, although it's the type of law that can be used to harass.

    The states all have bizarre, archaic laws still technically on the books. This is especially true of the states that made up the original British colonies. There are laws in my state, Massachusetts, still on the book, dating from the 1600s. All I can say is you better not swear at your parents in Massachusetts or spy on your master and mistress in their chambers.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Apr 10, 2013 8:36:28 AM

  2. Nice that they are doing this.

    But their time would be better spent trying to introduce marriage equality and ENDA.

    This is a nice PR gesture but meaningless in practical day to day terms.

    Posted by: MaryM | Apr 10, 2013 8:48:09 AM

  3. Shouldn't part of a US Supreme Court decision that such laws are unconstitutional be that the laws automatically come off the books in all states that have them? If not, what is the point of a Supreme Court decision? Sure some Montanan could challenge the law and go to court over it, but, if the US Supreme Court has already decided this, what's the point? Montana legislators should not have had to waste their time on this "debate."

    Posted by: Jere | Apr 10, 2013 9:34:37 AM

  4. Marriage equality has no chance of passing in Montana at this time. Let's be realistic. Over 1/3 of Montana politicians want to keep homosexuality technically illegal and this bill *barely* passed being moved out of committee to get to this point where it's looking likely to be passed. But hopefully this is the start of some positive momentum out of the state on LGBT issues.

    Posted by: Francis #1 | Apr 10, 2013 9:52:30 AM

  5. The SCOTUS decision rendered these bans unconstitutional and effectively unenforceable but that didn't change the language in the state constitutions of states that still have sodomy bans. Virginia, for example, just ruled their state sodomy ban was unconstitutional and Ken Cuccinelli's appeal of that decision was denied, but it's still on the books. And there are cases of people being prosecuted and harassed by police with the sodomy ban evoked as reason.

    Posted by: Francis #1 | Apr 10, 2013 10:25:47 AM

  6. This is what you call a 'free vote'. You get to politically grandstand with no consequences either way.

    These laws stay on the books in the vain hope the supreme court will reverse itself. It's also a form of political protest against rulings you don't like.

    Posted by: anon | Apr 10, 2013 10:45:41 AM

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