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Montana Finally Joins 49 Other States as Governor Signs Anti-Bullying Bill into Law

BullockMontana Governor Steve Bullock on Tuesday signed an anti-bullying bill that has been in the works for more than a decade, the AP reports.

The new law defines bullying as any repeated harassment, hazing or threatening in person, or in writing including electronic communication. As proposed, it would have directed public school districts to adopt certain policies addressing the issue of bullying. The final version simply prohibits students and teachers from bullying any student in a public K-12 school. It does not explicitly refer to cyberbullying, but the law would forbid it under the general bullying ban.

Bullock signed the Bully Free Montana Act at Jefferson Elementary School in Helena flanked by Rep. Kim Dudik, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, students and their families.

Montana was the only state in the union to have no legislation passed to fight bullying. It's about time.


Montana House Narrowly Defeats 'Religious Freedom' Bill With Evenly Split Vote

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The Montana Legislature turned down a proposed referendum Friday after the bill, which resembles Indiana’s religious freedom bill, failed to pass on a 50-50 vote reports the Associated Press. Opponents of HB 615 argued that the bill’s language is so vague it would’ve allowed any church, business or individual to openly discriminate and freely violate laws; supporters of HB 615 countered that the measure would have brought a 1993 federal law to the state level that is aimed at preventing legislation that considerably burdens a person’s right to exercise religion.

The AP adds:

When he presented the proposal Wednesday, Republican Rep. Carl Glimm of Kila said he intended for the bill to prioritize people's "sincerely held religious belief" above job descriptions. He and other supporters said it would allow county clerks to refuse marriage licenses to gay people and let pharmacists refuse to fill birth control prescriptions if they felt it would inhibit their religious practice. [...]

Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said before the floor debate that Montanans respect each other enough not to need a law like Indiana's, which at least one large corporation cited when pulling its business out of that state this week.

"What's happening in Indiana is something that shouldn't be happening in Montana," Bullock said before the floor debate. He added, "We don't need laws like that imported into our state."

The AP notes the bill could be reconsidered Saturday. 


Montana GOP Foils Dem 'Blast' Attempt to Pass LGBT Non-Discrimination, Gay Marriage Bills

Montana Republicans on Monday foiled attempts by Democratic lawmakers to pass four tabled bills, one of which was an LGBT non-discrimination bill, and another a gay marriage bill. The attempts were made via "blast motion" which allows lawmakers to lift tabled bills out of committee, the AP reports.

BennettA motion by Senator Christina Kaufmann (D-Helena) failed 21-29 along party lines:

The measure would prohibit discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people by adding the words "gender identity and expression and sexual orientation" to the state's Human Rights Act. The act currently bans discrimination based on race, creed, religion, color, sex, physical or mental disability, age or national origin in situations such as housing or employment.

Another bill dealt with gay marriage:

Rep. Bryce Bennett (pictured), of Missoula, moved to blast a tabled bill to the House floor that would remove same-sex couples from a list of prohibited marriages. House Bill 282 required 60 votes for a successful blast but failed by a vote of 43-57. Two Republicans, Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, of Billings, and Rep. Mike Miller, of Helmville, broke from their party and voted in favor.

A federal judge struck down Montana's ban on gay marriage in November. Gay couples began marrying the following day.


Openly Gay Montana Rep. Bryce Bennett Introduces Bill To Remove Gay Marriage From State's List Of Prohibited Marriages

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 12.45.53 PMD-Rep. Bryce Bennett of Missoula, Mont. introduced House Bill 282 in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday that if passed would remove same-sex marriage from a list of prohibited marriages reports NBC MontanaIn November, District Judge Brian Morris struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in Montana with the state joining 32, now 36, other states that allow or have seen rulings allowing same-sex marriages. Morris ruled that Montana's ban on same-sex marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, thus making the ban unconstitutional. 

The U.S. Supreme Court announced in early January that it would take up the issue of gay marriage. However, members of the Montana House Judiciary Committee questioned removing the state's restriction before the high court makes its decision on the matter. The U.S. Supreme Court declared it would hear four cases that challenge states' bans on same-sex marriage in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee with the cases set for hearings on April 24. 


Why Marriage Equality in Florida Is a Sign of Good Things to Come

FloridaBY ARI EZRA WALDMAN

When last we spoke, the freedom to marry had just been handed a setback: the Sixth Circuit let stand marriage discrimination laws in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. Over the holiday season, though, we took many steps forward in defiance of that egregious and wrongheaded appellate court opinion: Marriage equality officially came to Montana and South Carolina. And although she tried every trick in her book, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi could not stop the arc of justice from sweeping ashore in the Sunshine State.

The arrival of marriage freedom in Florida is particularly notable because of how it happened.

BondiIn Florida, a federal district court judge ruled in August that the state's marriage ban was unconstitutional; the judge stayed his decision until January 5, 2015. The Republicans running the state wanted to delay as much as possible as they appealed the judge's ruling to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. But neither the district court nor the circuit court would grant the state a stay beyond January 5. So, Attorney General Bondi asked the Supreme Court. The Court said no, with only Justice Scalia and Thomas willing to issue the stay.

Note the difference between South Carolina and Montana, on the one hand, and Florida on the other. South Carolina is under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit, which declared Virginia's marriage ban unconstitutional some time ago. Montana is in the Ninth Circuit, which made a similar decision in Idaho's case in October. Because marriage equality was just steps away from all the other states in those jurisdictions as a result of the appellate court decisions, the Supreme Court declined to issue a stay in the South Carolina case.

Florida is in the Eleventh Circuit, which has not had occasion to rule on a gay marriage case. So the Supreme Court's refusal to grant a stay and to allow marriages to start in Florida was a stronger pro-equality signal than denying a stay in South Carolina.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Montana Teen Arrives Home To Find Anti-gay Slur Spray Painted On His Door

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A bisexual Montana teen found a gay slur spray painted on his trailer door after spending the night at a friend's house reports Billings Gazette18-year-old Cain Stacy arrived home in the early hours of the morning to find the slur "fag," still wet, painted on the front door of his trailer. Stacy is not so much upset about being called the slur, but is moreso upset that someone had the nerve to deface his family's property with it.

Stacy's mother, Hiedi Hanna, lives next door and owns both properties. Hanna and Stacy reported the incident with police, but both are disappointed with how the case is being handled. Stacy informed the police of a potential suspect, but Billings Police Department Lt. Kevin Iffland said the suspect denied any involvement and consented to a search that yielded no evidence of their involvement. Iffland said the crime is classified as a criminal mischief with a bias motivation noted against bisexuals; the case is currently closed because police ran out of leads in the case however, should the department receive tips or other news about the case, then they will reopen it.

Until then, Stacy is stuck with the slur on his door; it's currently too cold to apply a fresh coat of paint to the door because it won't stick. For the time being Stacy is covering the slur with a plastic bag. "I just want it off my damn door," Stacy said. 

The Montana Board of Crime Control finds that overall hate crimes are decreasing over the last few years although there are occasional spikes; in the year of 2006, Montana saw a high of 154 reported hate crimes, while the last two years have only seen between 40-50 reported hate crimes. Out of 49 reported hate crimes in 2012, only 12 of them involved sexual orientation biases.


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