I'm worried that what's happening in Montana is just the tip of the iceberg, but at this point, I dont think so. What's got me all fired up and worried? Read on gentle bloggers...
House committee approves bill to nullify Missoula's equality ordinanceHELENA - The Republican majority on the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Monday that would effectively overturn Missoula's 2010 ordinance banning discrimination against city residents based on their sexual orientation and gender.
House Bill 516 by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, now moves to the House floor for debate this week.
It would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or policies that seek to protect residents from real or perceived discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender as the cities of Missoula did through an ordinance and Bozeman did through a policy.
The panel voted earlier Monday to table HB514 by Rep. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte, which would have broadened the Montana Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination statewide based on gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. The move to table her bill came after the bill was rejected 14-6.
The state Human Rights Act now prevents discrimination based on age, marital status, national origin, physical or mental disability, political beliefs or ideas (in case of governmental services and employment rights only), race and color, religion and sex (including pregnancy, maternity and sexual harassments).
The committee's votes on both measures followed party lines, except that Rep. Liz Bangerter, R-Helena, joined Democrats in opposing HB516.
Afterward, Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network criticized the committee's decisions on the two bills.
"They have essentially made it clear that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Montanans are not equals and that they believe the LGBT people do not deserve the same protections as anyone else," he said.
During committee discussions, there was little debate on either bill, with Democrats doing most of the talking.
Before the vote on the McClafferty bill, Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, spoke out for the bill.
"As an out member of the lesbian community, you may never have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation, but I have," she said, adding. "In many ways, I am not your peer. I am probably the only person - well, not in this room - who can be asked to leave a restaurant, denied housing, refused to be allowed into a hotel simply because of sexual orientation.
"It is a fact that I am not protected under the law. You can go ahead and vote against this bill, which I know you will, but that's a fact, and I want to you to know the face of a person who's affected by it and it's me."
During the discussion on Hansen's bill, Sands told the committee that passing HB516 would encourage discrimination.
Hansen didn't speak Monday, but at the hearing Friday she said, "The crux of my testimony today is that I believe the Montana Human Rights Act pre-empts the city of Missoula from doing this."
Rep. Michael More, R-Gallatin Gateway, said Monday, "Are you going to do things in one city different than another city? We try to put things in contexts of the whole."
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this law passes, then LGBT are exposed and defenseless. I'm worried that Montana is a "test" state, to see how easy it is to pass anti-LGBT legislation. Because what ever legal ground we have manage to attain could all be washed away, state by state, with Montana showing how it's done. I'm usually a very optimistic person, but when I read this, all I saw was a empty broken glass. Between the tea baggers and the religious right, I'm afraid that life could become very different and quite quickly for our "family". If this passes, there will be no stopping them from enacting many other anti-LGBT laws, possibly culminating in outlawing homosexuality. Unless the federal government steps up and leads from the white house, with a full on war against hate, hate laws, and lack of civil rights aimed at all LGBT, then I shudder to think what our future could look like. But then, I read this....and realize that things could be even bleaker than I thought....
Gov. Schweitzer: 'Nullification' bills in Montana Legislature are 'anti-American'
HELENA - Gov. Brian Schweitzer told fellow Democrats Monday that bills advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature to "nullify" federal laws in Montana are "anti-American" and do nothing to solve problems faced by the state.
Schweitzer, speaking to a meeting of House Democrats, said if Montanans and others disagree with federal polices, they can advocate for Congress to change them.
"But a state like Montana saying, ‘We will pick and choose which laws we will enforce?' " the governor said. "That's not the American way. ...
"Some of these (bills) are actually passing. ... The nullifying bills are anti-American."
Nearly a dozen bills to declare federal authority "null and void" or unenforceable in Montana have been introduced by Republicans at the 2011 Legislature. Some of the bills have been killed; some are still alive. (See related story.)
On Saturday, the House voted 61-39 for a bill to nullify the federal Endangered Species Act in Montana. All House Democrats and seven Republicans voted against it.
Other nullification bills and resolutions have taken aim at federal health-reform laws, food-safety legislation and the Environmental Protection Agency's authority on greenhouse gases.
One bill would set up a permanent legislative commission to review all federal law for potential nullification; a resolution endorsed Monday by a House panel says Montana can protect itself against "federal incursion" that violates personal freedoms.
Schweitzer walked unannounced into a House Democrats' meeting Monday morning and started talking about the nullification bills, saying they don't represent Montana values and "make us look like we're harkening back to the days of South Carolina" and the Civil War.
"Could you ask (Republicans) just once - Does (this) create a job?" he said. "Does it educate a child? Does it help even one disabled person?"
House Majority Leader Tom McGillvray, R-Billings, brushed off Schweitzer's comments as political theater, and said voters should judge the Republican-controlled Legislature on the work it will complete to help revitalize the economy and bring jobs to the state.
"When all is said and done, that will define what we've done here," he said.
McGillvray also said every lawmaker has the right to introduce bills important to them and their constituents, and that leadership doesn't control them or wish to restrain their enthusiasm.
"We have a lot of passionate representatives (in our caucus)," he said.
House Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte, said the federal government is "inextricably linked" to the state's economy, with Montana receiving much more in federal funds than its citizens pay in taxes.
"We've earned that money," he said. "If there's something we don't like, we need to work to change it ... not just walk away from it."
Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or at email@example.com.
What say you? Am I jumping at mere shadows? Or do you agree with me, and things are looking very scary?