Last edited: December 31, 2004

Martz Tells Lesbians, Gays She Won’t Fight Their Fight

Billings Gazette, June 16, 2001
Box 36300, Billings, MT 59107
Fax: 406-657-1208

The Associated Press

HELENA — Gov. Judy Martz told a gay-lesbian advocacy group Friday that she is a born-again Christian, but that does not mean she is part of the radical right.

In her first meeting with the group PRIDE since she took office in January, Martz was vague about her views on homosexuality, telling members "we will talk some day about my realization of some of the issues that you deal with."

"You are people, and I will treat you with respect as you treat me with respect," Martz told the PRIDE representatives. But she said it would be unfair for them to "ask me to do something that goes against my belief."

Martz did not agree to support PRIDE on specific issues, saying she wants to make Montana a better place for all people, regardless of their style of life.

The group said Montana’s elected leaders have not been out in front on issues important to gays and lesbians, a problem Martz should work to change so an atmosphere of tolerance is fostered.

Executive Director Karl Olson and others also said Martz should press fellow Republicans to rid their party’s platform of language declaring the state GOP supports "the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal."

"Is it my duty to tell everyone in the Republican Party to take that out? I don’t think so," Martz responded.

For a number of years, PRIDE has pushed to abolish Montana’s law that prohibits homosexual sex. The Montana Supreme Court found the law invalid, but the Republican-controlled Legislature refuses to take it off the books.

Martz said laws are made by the Legislature, not in her office, and arguments for and against statutes should be taken to legislators.

PRIDE commended her for canceling an appearance last month on a Kalispell radio show whose host ridiculed a Holocaust survivor, assailed homosexuals and jokingly suggested that listeners telephone bomb threats to the governor’s office. But program host John Stokes had been denigrating various segments of society for months, and Martz did not react until her office was named in the offensive talk, Olson said.

Martz said her decision came after she read transcripts from the program, and did not result from staff advice or public pressure.

"I made that decision in my heart," she said.

Martz said that as Montana’s first female governor, she faces some groundbreaking as do gay-lesbian activists, a comparison the PRIDE representatives liked. Being the first woman in the job of state chief executive will help Martz "look outside the box" in considering the lives of gays and lesbians, said Rick Wagner of Butte.

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