MONTANA: House Blocks Bill To Decriminalize Homosexuality
Yesterday the Montana House blocked an attempt to bring a bill decriminalizing homosexuality to a vote before the the full body. Earlier this month the GOP-led Montana House Judiciary Committee tabled the bill, but last night openly gay Rep. Diana Sands tried to force the issue before the full chamber.
The motion by Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, to blast Senate Bill 276 out of the House Judiciary Committee, received 51 votes in the 100-member House but failed to secure the 60 votes needed. The vote was 51-47. The Senate passed SB276, by Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, 35-14, but the House Judiciary Committee tabled the bill. Before the court ruling in 1997, gays and lesbians in Montana risked being charged with felonies and if convicted, they could have faced a maximum penalty of a 10-year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine, said Sands, a lesbian. "It's been almost 15 years since the Supreme Court ruling," Sands said. "It's about time we removed that language from the books. Let's bring it to the floor and debate it and take action on it."The laws against gay sex remain on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in 1997, a ruling echoed several years later by the U.S. Supreme Court.