Montana House endorses measure to decriminalize gay sex

HELENA, Mont. — The Montana state House on Tuesday endorsed a bill that would repeal an obsolete state law criminalizing gay sex a day after voting to bypass the committee that tabled the measure.

The House gave its initial approval to Senate Bill 107 on a 64-36 vote. It needs to pass a final vote on Wednesday before facing Gov. Steve Bullock.

The Senate previously approved the measure, but it became stuck in the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula), made the motion Monday to take the bill out of the committee and place it on the agenda for a House vote.

Bennett, who is gay, said the law emphasizes inequality and pointed to the 1997 Montana Supreme Court case that ruled the language criminalizing gay sex was unconstitutional.

“Under this law, I am considered a felon,” Bennett said on Monday. “I am not your equal.”

Bennett said that even though he won’t be prosecuted, he still feels the law’s “sting” and resents that Montana law classifies gay sex as sexual deviance, on par with bestiality.

The bill sparked an emotional debate from Republicans including Rep. Duane Ankney of Colstrip, who called the law an embarrassment.

The law was struck down by the Montana Supreme Court in the 1990s, but remained on the books largely due to Republican opposition to remove it.

Associated Press contributed to this report.



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