Montana FINALLY repeals law criminalizing homosexuality

The number of Americans who oppose marriage equality is dwindling fast, but it appears many of those remaining homophobes are representing Montana in the legislature.  In spite of the 34 representatives who voted today to retain Montana’s antiquated law criminalizing homosexual sex.  The statute, which classifies homosexuality as sexual deviance, on par with bestiality has been declared unconstitutional in a 1997 decision by Montana’s Supreme Court, but that fact is apparently of no consequence to these representatives, including Rep. Champ Edmunds (R-Missoula)  who is currently running for the Republican candidate for US Senate.  Ten senators earlier voted against repealing this law.

The final House vote tally on SB 107 is as follows:

SB 107 vote tabulation


And the Senate:

SB 107 Senate votes

In case you missed it yesterday, Representative Duane Ankney (R-Colstrip) provided testimony in support of repealing Montana’s ugly and embarrassing law.  Watch his testimony here.  Another Republican supported repealing the law for very different reasons, from the Billings Gazette, (emphasis mine)

Rep. Jonathan McNiven, R- Huntley, said voting for the bill doesn’t mean he endorses homosexuality.

“I don’t support this type of lifestyle,” he said. “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. 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.”

Rep. Hagstrom (R-Billings) said he voted no on SB 107 because gay sex doesn’t reproduce people and therefore is a deviant act.  Rep Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) naturally evoked religion as his justification for opposing the bill, claiming it was his moral obligation not to pass the legislation. “There is an enormous biblical principle here. There is a truth. I know public opinion may be swaying with the time but the truth does not sway and so it was default to scripture.”

Despite the hateful church crowd, the time has finally come to repeal Montana’s law criminalizing gay sex. After 20 years of failed attempts- who could forget last session’s “gay recruiting” testimony by Rep Ken Peterson (R-Billings)-  a repeal decidedly passed both houses and is headed to Governor Bullock’s desk, awaiting a certain signature.

Congratulations to sponsors Sen. Tom Facey ( D-Missoula), Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Superior), Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula);  the other legislators who supported this bill as well as Montana’s LGBT community.  It is time that Montana puts this law in our past.

Take some time to thank the Republicans who did the right thing in voting for SB 107.    For those who didn’t, I guess we could pray for them?


The quaint notion of controlling one’s own life and death

nursing home handsOn Dec. 31, 2009, Montana’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that addressed the question of whether the state’s constitution guaranteed terminally ill patients a right to lethal prescription medication from their physicians.  The court stated that while the state’s Constitution did not guarantee a right to physician-assisted suicide, there was “nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy. Representative Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel)  hopes to change that with HB 505, a bill which “clarifies” the law and ensures that physicians who assist their terminally ill patients in dying with dignity are imprisoned and fined.  Although aid in dying isn’t expressly illegal in Montana, under the provisions of this legislation, anyone who actually assists in any manner with a terminally ill patient’s decision to end their life on their terms will be prosecuted   According to a Montana board member of the National Right To  Life, physicians who respect their patients’ autonomy, including their wish to end their suffering, will be charged with homicide.

Note: The “aid” component of physician aid-in-dying involves only the dispensing of the medication. the patient decides if and when to self-administer the medication.

Perhaps your religious beliefs  preclude you from ever choosing to end your own suffering.   That is entirely understandable, but surely you aren’t arrogant enough to think that your personal religious beliefs bestow upon you the power to decide for another, who holds different beliefs, whether his life is worth living?   Should those people be prohibited from dying with dignity purely because YOUR religious beliefs oppose such decisions? We aren’t talking about the unborn, who as some claim “cannot advocate for themselves”, nor are we talking about forcing anyone to end their own life.  We are talking about terminally ill, adult human beings of sound mind who desire the right to live and die on their own terms. How is prolonged suffering  a pro-life view?

Who do you trust with your important health decisions, your physician or your legislature?  Tell your legislators, especially members of the House Judiciary Committee not to interfere with doctor-patient relationships.   A peaceful and dignified exit is an option we should all have.  Recent polls indicate a majority of Americans support allowing physician aid-in-dying,  let’s kill this bill in committee before it embarrasses Montanans. Giving patients a choice benefits those who desire it while care of those who object to it is not affected in any way.  It seems the Montana GOP is using this legislative session to further indulge the cumbrous embrace of the big government nanny.

In related news, SB 220, a bill establishing procedures and regulations to Montanans’ end of life decisions was tabled last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.  


“Running on Empty” Speaker Jeff Essmann Runs From Constituents

Earlier this week, I received several invitations to the Billings stop of the “Running on Empty” bus tour by Americans for Prosperity.  Slated to speak at the event were Sen. Jeff Essmann (author of the infamous “black market” marijuana bill, SB423), Rep. Tom McGillvray (who at at an RLCC fundraiser stated that Montana was wasting its money on meth prevention as our real problem in Montana is medical marijuana) and Rep. Krayton Kerns, who pretends to be more constitutional and liberty-minded than he is in reality. The guest speakers were greeted by far more protesters than conservative supporters. Someone in the crowd called McGillvray a “commie”, Kerns was asked if he’d returned his federal farm subsidy welfare check and the cowardly star speaker, Jeff Essmann, couldn’t be bothered to attend. Prior to the event, representatives from the Ken Miller for Governor campaign were overheard calling to warn others of the opposition. Why are so many candidates for governor afraid of their constituents?  Opponents of McGillvray and Kerns outnumbered supporters at least 3 to 1 although some reports indicated that over 100 protesters attended while 20 or so were friendly.

Where’s Essmann?

Essmann may have been home analyzing the results of the recent solicitiation letters he sent to constituents as he explores a potential Gubernatorial bid.  Oddly enough, he omitted authoring SB423 in the lengthy resume’ he included in the letters.  He has repeatedly claimed that droves of his constituents begged and pleaded for a repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law, so it does seem strange that he didn’t mention let alone herald that particular accomplishment. Perhaps he was using medical marijuana. Oh yes, that’s right, he has never done such a thing…. or has he?    Perhaps Essmann was home proposing legislation for the biggest tax increases in Montanans’ lifetimes.  Oh, never mind.  He already did that! Maybe he was providing statements to police, hoping to ensure a newly unemployed cannabis caregiver would be charged with a violation of the dreaded “privacy in communications act”.  Yeah, he already did that too.  Perhaps Essmann was out looking for Rep. James Knox, word on the street is that he’d like him to be his lieutenant governor.  Unfortunately for Essmann, Knox is apparently planning to leave the state, presumably taking his $733/mo in health benefits, compliments of Montana taxpayers, with him.

Anyway, back to the Americans for Prosperity event.  I wasn’t in attendance, but reports of McGillvray and Kerns being loudly booed were consistent.  One Republican politician- who actually lobbied Essmann and company to abandon plans for repeal in favor of thoughtful legislation during the session- left early because he was uncomfortable with the number of union thugs shouting down the speakers.  He said that he was not there to support the speakers but to support the local effort to elect new leaders who understand the need to live within our means and recognize that over-regulating is not the conservative way. Josh Daniels, an outspoken advocate for patients’ rights as well as a member of Patients for Reform, Not Repeal , said  “Overall it was a sad showing for them.  As a libertarian I do agree with the general concept, but the MT Tea Party is working for a nanny state with the LDS church on cannabis regulation.”  Mr. Daniels held a sign that read “SB423, Welcome Back Blackmarket”.

The Bozeman and Helena stops on the bus tour Thursday afternoon were also attended by a sizable group of protesters.  Friday’s stops include Kalispell, as well as the liberal university city of Missoula.  Similar events in Florida last week drew smaller than expected crowds. Perhaps Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded by the libertarian Koch brothers, should do a little research on their prospective speakers. I’m pretty sure that a speech by Republican Representative Mike Miller wouldn’t have drawn such opposition.

Most of those in attendance cited the need for jobs in Montana.  Note:  McGillvray, Kerns and Essmann all voted to eliminate the thousands of jobs in Montana’s medical cannabis industry.  Times certainly have changed since the last conservative bus tour stop in Billings. When then-GOP chairman Michael Steele brought the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour to Billings prior to the 2010 elections, hundreds of smiling and cheering supporters attended the event and I don’t recall seeing even one protester.  If only we had known then what sort of fools we were electing to represent us.

Montana Lawmakers Weeding Out Poor Legislation

One of the most ridiculous bills of the 2011 Montana legislative session was rejected in committee this morning amid concerns about quantifying impairment.  Members of the judiciary committee across the political spectrum (including Rep Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and Rep Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) opposed  Ken Peterson‘s HB33, which sought to criminalize driving  with ANY level of any detectable drug or drug metabolite.  HB33 was nothing more than a back-door attempt to block the use of medical marijuana in Montana.  A vocal proponent of repealing the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, Peterson, in sponsoring the legislation, initially may appeared well-intentioned.  However,  a provision making exceptions for legally prescribed drugs is evidence that this bill had less to do with public safety and more with control.  Shame on Rep. Ken Peterson (R-Billings) for his blatant attempt to force Montanans to comply with his idea of morality.

Medical marijuana in Montana isn’t prescribed by a physician because federally, cannabis is still a schedule I illegal substance.  Physicians in Montana recommend marijuana to patients they believe could benefit from use of the substance but this recommendation (as opposed to a prescription) would essentially prohibit legal medical marijuana users from driving at all.  Metabolites can be detected in some people more than a month after using marijuana.   The abuse and misuse of prescription drugs is reaching epidemic proportions in Montana- in teens and adults- and for some strange reason, Ken Peterson would prefer to have Oxycontin addicts behind the wheel than those using medical marijuana.

Obviously, nobody should drive while impaired as a result of any substance or condition (fatigue, for instance) but the mere presence of marijuana metabolites is not at all indicative of impairment.  Can you imagine the enforcement and legal nightmares this sort of law would create?  Essentially, eating a poppy seed muffin would be cause for arrest. Ken Peterson’s bills this session have led some to question his intelligence.

Ken Peterson wants to force his morality upon you

Montana voted Republican in November not because they approve of the GOP, but because they disapprove of them less than the Democrat party.  Sadly, many of the GOP legislators are spending political capital they have yet to earn which could ensure disappointments in 2012 elections.  Regardless of personal opinions on social issues, concerns about the economy and a looming budget shortfall should take precedence. Voters will certainly not appreciate  legislation motivated by the personal religious agendas of a few lawmakers.