Posted: Jan 21, 2013 2:56 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Montana lawmakers are tackling a controversial bill relating to homosexuality.
Under Montana law, "deviate sexual conduct" is defined as sexual intercourse between two persons of the same sex.
On Monday, MT State Senator Tom Facey (D-Missoula) presented a bill before the Senate Judiciary committee. Facey's bill would strike the language which criminalizes homosexual sex.
"Words do matter, and those few and simple words in the Montana code inculcating your gay and lesbian friends, neighbors, family members and colleagues with those who molest animals, do matter. They matter to us," Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network said.
The U.S. Supreme Court and the Montana Supreme Court have both already ruled this portion of the statute unconstitutional, but social conservatives have historically blocked legislative attempts to clean up the law.
"The statute under attack is one of the oldest criminal statutes in Montana law, deeply rooted in the values and societal attitudes of the citizens of the state," Dallas Erickson of Montana Citizens for Decency said.
Opponents of the bill say the law needs to stay on the books so that the state can prosecute people who rape children.
However, the Montana County Attorneys Association supports removing the language because they say there are other laws which can be used to prosecute rape cases.
During the 2011 legislative session, the Senate passed the bill, but it later died in the House Judiciary committee.
Lawmakers have yet to vote on it this session.
The text of the current law can be found in Montana Annotated Code 45-5-505; it reads as follows:
45-5-505. Deviate sexual conduct.
(1) A person who knowingly engages in deviate sexual relations or who causes another to engage in deviate sexual relations commits the offense of deviate sexual conduct.
(2) A person convicted of the offense of deviate sexual conduct shall be imprisoned in the state prison for any term not to exceed 10 years or be fined an amount not to exceed $50,000, or both.
(3) The fact that a person seeks testing or receives treatment for the HIV-related virus or another sexually transmitted disease may not be used as a basis for a prosecution under this section and is not admissible in evidence in a prosecution under this section.