Last edited: December 31, 2004

Lawmaker Wants Removal of Gay Sex Law

Billings Gazette, January 29, 2003
Box 36300, Billings, MT 59107
Fax: 406-657-1208

By Allison Farrell, Gazette State Bureau

HELENA—Rep. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, is asking his fellow lawmakers to honor the oath they took on the first day of the 2003 session to uphold the Montana Constitution. He’s asking them on that basis to remove from the state’s code the statute that criminalizes consensual gay sex.

The Montana Supreme Court in 1997 overturned the state’s sodomy law based on the state’s constitutional right to privacy, but Montana has not removed the statute from its books. No one in the state apparently has ever been prosecuted under the law, lawmakers said.

"House Bill 294 asks legislators to respect the rights of all Montanans," Facey said at the hearing Tuesday of the House Judiciary Committee.

Facey said he’s not asking legislators to approve of gay and lesbian lifestyles but to confirm the privacy rights of all state residents.

"This bill is simple," said Karl Olson, director of PRIDE in Helena, a gay rights organization. "This bill is about walking the talk. It’s about the constitution."

Jan Donaldson of Helena asked lawmakers to obey their state’s highest court. Linda Gryczan of Helena told the legislators that same-sex couples live in nearly every county in Montana.

"They are your constituents," she said.

Others oppose removing Montana’s sodomy law in accordance with the 1997 Supreme Court ruling.

Churches across Montana "agree homosexuality must remain a crime in this state," said Harris Himes, pastor at the Big Sky Christian Center in Hamilton. "The legislators are applauded for standing up for their Christian beliefs."

Julie Millam, director of the Montana Family Coalition, said she believes the Supreme Court ruling was made in error and "will be overturned for its capriciousness."

Opponents of the bill said the "deviant" behaviors of gay and lesbian people undermine "traditional family values."

"I think it’s a sad thing that we have become insensitive to what God wants for this country," Himes said.

Donaldson, who spoke in favor of the law, said she doesn’t know what kind of Christian God the opponents are talking about.

"I find it offensive that they feel they can speak for the Christian community," Donaldson said after the hearing. "This is not the Christianity I know."

The committee took no action on the bill.

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