A transgender rights group has come out
against a Montana bill that would repeal a gay protections law in
Missoula, the state's second largest city, and forbid other
municipalities from following suit.
Republican Representative Kristin
Hansen's bill won House approval last month with a decisive 60-39
vote. It cleared a Senate committee on Friday and could reach the
Senate floor as early as Tuesday.
a letter to Montana state Senators released on Monday, the
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund urged lawmakers to
reject the proposal.
“HB 516 is meant to do one thing
only: to make it impossible for transgender, lesbian, gay and
bisexual Montanans to seek protection from discrimination in the
cities and towns where they live,” the group wrote. “HB16
suffers from at least two constitutional infirmities. First, it is
motivated solely by animus towards transgender and gay people, which
is a constitutionally impermissible basis for legislation. Second,
it deprives transgender and gay people of their right to participate
in the political process and seek help from their local governments.
That privation – which turns transgender and gay Montanans into
strangers to a broad swath of Montana's government – is by itself a
violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection.”
“HB 516 serves no legitimate
government interest and is unconstitutional,” the group concluded.
At a House hearing on the proposed
measure, gay rights opponents suggested that being gay should be
“It is God himself who says that
homosexuality is an abomination, and he has various punishments for
that, too,” said Harris Himes, a pastor at Big Sky Christian Center
in Hamilton. When asked for an example, Himes quoted Leviticus
saying that gay people “surely shall be put to death.”
Other opponents railed against the
Missoula law's protections for transgender people, suggesting that
the law placed women and children in danger.
“This law in Missoula means that a
person with a penis can now go into the showers where the people with
vaginas have gone,” Dallas Erickson of Montana Citizens for Decency
through Law said.