Years After Court Ruling, Senate Votes to Drop Law Against Gay Sex

Posted on February 23, 2011

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By JAYME FRASER

HELENA – Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena, said she doesn’t want to be “held in the same regard, the same disgust” as people who have sex with animals.

And the Senate largely agreed with a 41-9 vote Wednesday to decriminalize homosexuality.

Montana law currently defines “deviate sexual relations” as “sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex or any form of sexual intercourse with an animal.”

“For 10 years I’ve been an equal member of these legislative bodies with you,” said Kaufmann, who is openly gay. “But this code says I should have spent 10 years in prison. You have many gay and lesbian members of your communities that live under these words every day.”

She said it isn’t enough that the Montana Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 1997 under the state’s privacy provision. She’s seen the Legislature ignore that ruling in past sessions when it voted to not amend the law.

“Words matter,” said Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, who sponsored the bill to amend the law. “Let’s honor, respect everybody in Montana.”

Facey first introduced a bill to amend this law in 1997, the same year of the court’s ruling.

Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, thanked Facey for his persistence but still stood to “respectfully” oppose Senate Bill 276. Hutton acknowledged the need to discuss adjustments that match law with court rulings but noted “some are considered social issues.”

Hutton voted against the bill along eight other Republicans.

The bill will face one more Senate vote before consideration by the House.

Posted in: Daily Grind