Last edited: December 31, 2004

House Defeats End To Ban On Gay Sex

Billings Gazette, February 14, 1999
Box 36300, Billings, MT 59107
Fax: 406-657-1208

HELENA (AP) – A bill to erase Montana’s unconstitutional law against homosexual sex failed on a tie vote Saturday in the House.

Representatives voted 50-50, killing the bill that would have removed the law overturned by the Montana Supreme Court in 1997. The sponsor of House Bill 449, Rep. Joan Hurdle, R-Billings, said she probably will ask to have the measure reconsidered Monday.

Hurdle told representatives they should pass the bill to rid the Montana Code of the law, now that it has been struck down by the Supreme Court. The court said the law against sex acts between consenting adults of the same gender violated the constitutional right to privacy.

"The Supreme Court didn’t say we had to take this law off the books," Rep. Bob Clark, R-Ryegate, said in urging defeat of Hurdle’s bill. "They merely said it was unconstitutional." There is no harm in leaving the law in place, Clark said.

Rep. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, spoke in favor of the bill but emphasized he is not an advocate of gay rights. Shockley said he supports privacy and opposes unnecessary government regulation.

Only a brief debate preceded the House vote.

Later Saturday, representatives defeated Hurdle’s effort to resurrect her bill. As the House ended its work for the day, she was examining the 50-50 roll call vote that killed the measure and was considering options for Monday.

The case decided by the Supreme Court was filed after earlier efforts to remove the law against gay sex failed in the Legislature.

At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Hurdle’s bill this month, opponents said passage would be a stand against families. Supporters said there is no reason to keep an unconstitutional, unenforceable law, regardless of beliefs about homosexuality.

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