HELENA — The Montana Republican Party is ending its call to make homosexual acts illegal, but the party is reinforcing its opposition to gay marriage.
The changes came over the weekend at the party's convention in Missoula.
The GOP had held the position seeking to criminalize homosexuality since a 1997 Montana Supreme Court case struck down similar state laws. The party had been criticized in recent years for continuing to maintain the stance.
But party executive director Bowen Greenwood says the decision to drop the language came as part of a larger effort to simply shorten a 31-page platform.
"I don't think there was any specific discussion about the issue of homosexual acts and the old law from the 1990s, it was just a question of we were redoing the whole thing," he said.
Greenwood pointed out that a lengthy section on various aspects of taxation had been shortened to simply read: "Federal, state and local taxes should be low broad-based and easily understood."
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The delegates did, however, make it clear at Saturday's platform convention that the party supports "the definition of marriage as only between one man and one woman," adding the sentence to the national affairs portion of its platform.
The party's platform previously read, under a heading of "Homosexual Acts" found in the crime portion of the platform that, "We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal."
The party in the past had said that it had remained since no one had ever taken the initiative to change it and pointed out that it represented a stance that the legislature should make laws and not the courts.
It remains a recurring issue during legislative sessions when Democrats try to formally remove from the books the state law that was struck down by the courts, since it remains on the books even though it is now unenforceable.
The Montana Democratic Party jabbed the Republicans over the reversal.
"We welcome the current leaders of the Montana Republican Party to the 21st century, after decades of trying to get the government to invade the private lives of Montanans," said party executive director Ted Dick.