They are clowning in Montana, for real. The House committee approved a bill that would kill an ordinance that protects folks from gender and sexual orientation discrimination.
The committee voted to endorse House Bill 516, by Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, which would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or other policies like Missoula's that include, as a protected class from discrimination, any groups not included under the Montana Human Rights Act.
The panel also voted to table HB514, by Rep. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte, which would have expanded the Montana Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression and sexual orientation.
The move to table came after a motion to pass her bill failed.
The Montana Human Rights Network has released an alert to address the matter.
The House passed the bill 60-39. The Dems were highly upset:
It is ironic that the first bill of the day and the last bill of the day both intend to override the expressed will of Missoulians to govern ourselves as we see fit," said Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula.
"It seems that each day, there's a new attack on Missoula," said Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula. "Each one of our local ordinances is being paraded in front of the body for judgment."
The city's lawmakers also voiced sadness over the effort to dismantle Missoula's effort to protect lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders from various forms of discrimination.
"Leave us alone," said Rep. Sue Malek, D-Missoula. "For heaven's sake. We're one little town in a corner of Montana that has nothing to do with you. You know, I mean, why can't you let people live like they need to live their lives? Why can't they love who they want to love?"
For their part, the few Republicans who spoke on the bill talked legal issues and generally avoided talking about the specifics of the Missoula anti-discrimination ordinance.
As sponsor, Hansen said HB516 would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or policies that seek to protect residents from real or perceived discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender as Missoula did through an ordinance and Bozeman through a policy.
She said the Missoula City Council adopted the ordinance and provided an enforcement mechanism that fell outside of that in the Montana Human Rights Act.
"It would apply retroactively to the city of Missoula's ordinance in order to keep all businesses and all entities on a level playing field," Hansen said. "All discrimination claims will have to go through the human rights procedures as designated by the Montana Human Rights (Commission)."