Martz to Gays: No Special Support
Gazette, April 19, 2002
By Ericka Schenck Smith Gazette State Bureau
HELENAóGov. Judy Martz on Thursday refused to
commit her support to increasing legal protections for gays and lesbians and
compared anti-gay violence to tree-spiking by environmentalists who want to
halt logging projects.
"Is it my obligation to bring forward these things, the issues, and
support them? Probably not," Martz said in a meeting with gay and lesbian
rights advocates. "But we are a more accessible governor than most, and I
am interested in what happens to the people in this state, and I do care about
the things, the issues where hurtful things have happened."
Democratic Rep. Christine Kaufmann, of Helena, the only openly gay member
of the current Legislature, asked for the meeting with Martz to talk about
including protections for sexual orientation in the stateís hate crimes and
human rights laws. Kaufmann asked the Republican governor to support bills to
change those laws in the 2003 session.
"The added element in these hate crimes is that an entire group of
people is really terrorized by the act because the perpetrator means to send a
message to the entire group, not just the people who are victims,"
"I go back to the timber people," Martz responded. "Same
thing. When they spike trees, itís to scare the whole industry. So I agree
with you; it is perpetrated to scare the whole group, but there are groups out
there that get scared ... and itís not right in any case. I donít care
what the case is. It is not right."
Similar bills to those Kaufmann proposes were tabled in committee by the
2001 Legislature. The Legislature also denied a bill repealing the state law
making consensual sex between adults of the same gender illegal. The Montana
Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in 1997, but legislators have
refused to take it off the books.
"We would like for you to consider those bills, whether or not you can
support it," Kaufmann told the governor. "I know that people think
itís politically difficult to do something that appears to favor a group of
people thatís generally despised or disliked in the culture."
"If you can get it through the Legislature, Iíll take a look at
it," Martz said. She added that she would give the bills Kaufmann
proposed the same consideration she would give any other legislation.
"I can tell you plainly that I wonít come out in support or against
it prior to it going through the legislative session," Martz said.
"I have learned well not to do that because (bills) change daily."
Kaufmann was joined by Karl Olson, executive director of PRIDE!, and Betty
Kijewski, of Helena, an organizer for the Montana Human Rights Network and
mother of a gay son.
Kijewski said she is frustrated by the state governmentís indifference to
gay issues and the way that indifference trickles down to children.
"I personally have many youths come to me with their frustrated
stories as gay youth of daily, constant harassment and violence that happens
against them," Kijewski said.
Olson said expanding the hate crimes law would help law enforcement track
crimes in which people are targeted for their sexual orientation.
"One of the things that we find when we go to the Legislature, we are
told anti-gay hate crimes donít happen in Montana," Olson said.
"Well, thereís no one keeping those records. ... And weíve heard from
law enforcement people who have asked in the Legislature for it to be included
to allow them to do their work."
Kaufmann said that she thought all violence is wrong, but said that there
is something even more malicious about a hate crime, and Montanans deserve
protection against being targeted for their sexuality.
It has been about 21/2 months since the home of a lesbian couple in
Missoula was burned in an arson fire. The fire happened days after the women,
one a professor at the University of Montana, announced they had filed suit
against the state for not providing equal benefits to gay and lesbian
University System employees. Police do not have a suspect, but County Attorney
Fred Van Valkenberg has said investigators presume the couple was not
Had sexual orientation been included in the Montana human rights laws, the
Missoula coupleís lawsuit would have been unnecessary, Kaufman said.
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