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GOP lawmaker's comments on LGBTQ people prompt rebuke from Democrats

GOP lawmaker's comments on LGBTQ people prompt rebuke from Democrats

Clinton church rally

State Sen. Theresa Manzella of Ravalli County speaks Nov. 18 at a Clinton Community Church rally in support of Pastor Brandon Huber.

The Montana Legislature’s Democratic Party leaders on Friday called for a Republican state senator to be removed from her interim committee assignment, after the Missoulian newspaper quoted her as denigrating LGBTQ people and suggesting their feelings of fear are “normal consequences associated with the choices they made.”

“Sen. Manzella’s remarks are nothing short of offensive, dangerous and unacceptable,” House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, D-Helena, and Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, wrote in a letter sent to Senate President Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell.

They continued, “LGBTQ Montanans have always been valued members of our communities, and they deserve the basic dignity and respect owed to everyone in our state — the most basic of which is to be able to live their lives without fear of violence.”

Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, had been speaking at a Wednesday event in Clinton when she made the comments.

“Now, they like to play the protected class card and they're the minority and they're discriminated against and they're scared to walk down the street hand in hand,” Manzella told people who attended the event, referring to people who identify as LGBTQ. “I've got to tell you, I think those are normal consequences associated with the choices they made.”

Audio of her comments was recorded by a Missoulian reporter who attended the event and published a partial transcript of Manzella's comments on Twitter on Friday. The story containing the quote was also published Friday.

In a Facebook post following the story’s publication, Manzella called the quote “a bit out of context,” without elaborating. She did not immediately respond to a voicemail on her cellphone asking for clarification and comment on the Democrats’ request Friday evening.

People in the U.S. who identify as LGBTQ are nearly four times more likely than non LGBTQ people to experience violence, according to a study published last year by the UCLA School of Law. The same study found that about half of those victimizations are not reported to the police.

The Democrats’ letter asks that Blasdel “join us in condemning Sen. Manzella’s remarks” and remove her from her seat on the Children, Families, Health and Human Services Interim Committee. Blasdel could not immediately be reached Friday evening.

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