HELENA — Here are some comments made by members of the House on Tuesday in support and opposition to House Bill 516, which would nullify Missoula's ordinance banning discrimination against city residents based on their sexual orientation and gender expression.
For the bill:
"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. All discrimination claims will all have to go through the human rights procedures as designed by the Montana Human Rights Commission." — Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, sponsor of the bill.
"I don't want to discuss the philosophy about this bill. I just want to say it's consistent with state law. We've heard that Missoula is a self-government, and it is. I was the first city attorney in the self-government city of Billings. There are certain things that are precluded to self-government cities." — Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings.
"We have 100 representatives here, all equal. We meet in committee and do not debate the issues with anyone because they are homosexual or heterosexual, black, white. I debate issues with them because they are people. We're all-inclusive. Our current laws include everyone. By you selecting a certain race, a certain sexuality, whatever the case is, to try to elevate them with special protection lowers the equality of everyone else. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination." — Rep. James Knox, R-Billings.
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Against the bill:
"I'm proud to be a member of the Montana lesbian, gay, bi(sexual), transgender community and a citizen of Montana and a member of this august body. There are thousands of 'us' living in Montana. We are your neighbors, your work colleagues, we are part of your families, we sit in the church pew next to you and we serve in elective office with you." — Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula.
"It seems that each there's a new attack on Missoula, each one of our local ordinances is being paraded in front of this body for judgment. And one by one you're ruling that your opinion is better than the clear opinion of the people of the city of Missoula. You keep pushing us further and further into a corner, over and over and expect us to simply take the punishment. Well, this bill absolutely has to end." — Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula.
"It (the Missoula ordinance) gave those young (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people who had been beaten up, yelled at and discriminated against day in and day out the dimmest light of hope that maybe someday they might be equal to other Montanans, maybe someday. But this bill looks to extinguish that dim light of hope and eliminate an existing right for LGBT Missoulians." — Bennett.
"Leave us alone. Leave us alone. 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. Why, I don't understand it. As a Christian, the Jesus that I love said love one another, do not judge, love another." — Rep. Sue Malek, D-Missoula.