Helena, Montana — The Montana House of Representatives is set to take a final vote this week on a bill that would decriminalize homosexual behavior in the state.
The House narrowly approved the measure in a 64 to 36 vote last Tuesday, but not without strong debate. The bill, introduced by Senator Tom Facey, served to revise “laws relating to deviate sexual conduct” and change “the definition of deviate sexual conduct.” In the draft of the bill, the phrase “sexual contact or sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex” are crossed out, so that the definition of “deviate sexual conduct” now only reads, “Deviate sexual relations means any form of sexual intercourse with an animal.”
“It is the thief, the devil, that comes to steal our life, to kill us, to rob us. Christ said I come so that you might have life to the fullest,” declared Representative Jerry Bennett to those gathered to deliberate the legislation. “That’s my desire for everyone here.”
Representative Duane Ankey, whose daughter is a lesbian, espoused the opposite viewpoint.
“To say she is any less of a person or a criminal for her lifestyle … really upsets me,” he stated. “I consider myself a good Christian … and I don’t think God thinks any less of my daughter than he does of any one of you in here. The law is an embarrassment on the people of Montana. It should go away.”
Republican Representative Jonathan McNiven said that while he opposes homosexual “marriage,” he felt that sex between two men or two women should be legalized because “no one is perfect.”
“I don’t support this type of lifestyle,” he stated. “I think we need to keep our eye on the ball and start promoting marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
“But that’s not what this bill says,” McNiven continued. “I am going to vote for this bill because we still love these people. We want to help these people. Every one of us is not perfect.”
Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee had blocked the bill last week, but when it went to the full House for a vote anyway, a number of Republicans joined the Democrats in the repeal. According to The Billings Gazette, 25 Republicans voted in favor of legalizing homosexual behavior, as did all 39 Democrats in the Montana House.
The bill will now go up for one final vote in the House before making its way to the desk of Governor Steve Bullock.
The existing statute carries a criminal penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $50,000 if convicted. It is not known whether the statute has been enforced by police up to this point.
Many states and colonies passed laws criminalizing homosexual behavior even before the founding of America. William Penn, the founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, wrote in The Great Law in 1682, “And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid that if any person shall be legally convicted of the unnatural sin of sodomy or joining with beasts such persons shall be whipped and forfeit one third part of his or her estate and work six months in the house of correction at hard labour, and for the second offense imprisonment as aforesaid during life.”