By Mary Beall ACLU of Montana Legislative Intern
In 1997, in Gryczan v. State, the Montana Supreme Court struck down a state statute which labeled same-sex relations as “deviate sexual conduct,” punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. The court stated that under the statute, gays and lesbians experienced psychological fear of prosecution and persecution. Furthermore, the statute infringed upon the individual’s right to privacy, a right which Montanans proudly defend. However, 16 years later, the statute remains on the books and serves as a constant reminder of state-sanctioned discrimination.
Despite Gryczan, and, later, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence, the Montana Legislature has yet to strike this unconstitutional classification. This failure not only displays legislative negligence, but, more importantly, the steadfastness of some legislators to maintain discriminatory policies.
Montana is not the only state that maintains a law of this nature. Until recently, Virginia has prosecuted individuals under its anti-sodomy laws. This prosecution flies in the face of Lawrence. Since Gryczan, Montana has not attempted to prosecute any individual for participating in same-sex relations. However, by keeping this law on the books, legislators are sending a clear message: regardless of the courts’ decisions (and popular opinion), same-sex relations should be criminal.
It is time for Montana’s legislators to remove this offensive language from the books. The people of this state have long honored individuals’ right to privacy. Furthermore, a majority of Montanans support legal equality for same-sex couples. Tell your representative that discrimination has no place in Montana, and that it is time for them to respect all Montanans by voting for SB 107.
Friday, March 15, 2013
House Judiciary Committee 8 a.m., Room 137
- SB 107 Generally revise deviate sexual conduct laws
- SB 194 Restrict the use of strip and body cavity searches
Senate Judiciary Committee 9 a.m., Room 303
- HB 355 Elminate the 5-year look back for alcohol and drug driving offenses
Senate State Administration Committee 3 p.m., Room 335
- HJ 3 Resolution to amend the US Constitution regarding the commerce clause
- HB 410 Third party voter registration integrity preservation
Hearings and floor sessions can be accessed online.