Bill Would Extend Montana's Anti-Discrimination Policy To LGBT People
A proposal to add gender identity or expression and sexual orientation to Montana’s Human Rights Act is again up for debate in the state Legislature.
House Bill 465 would extend the statewide anti-discrimination policy to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. A similar proposal was voted down during the last legislative session, primarily along party lines with Republican opposing it.
"I don’t need a landlord to agree with me, or to love me or to think I’m not going to hell. I just need them to rent me an apartment if I can pay," says Helena Democrat Kim Abbott, who is carrying the bill.
Abbot and other backers of the policy change say the LGBT community faces discrimination in the workforce and when trying to find places to live.
"This isn’t about being right or wrong," Abbot says. "This is about there being some rules when you are in the public marketplace and you are participating and benefiting from the public market place."
Current state law says Montanans have the, "right to be free from discrimination because of race, creed, religion, color, sex, physical or mental disability, age, or national origin."
Five Montana cities and towns currently include LGBT people in nondiscrimination ordinances, Missoula, Helena, Whitefish, Butte and Bozeman.
During House Bill 465’s first hearing today opponents said expanding the policy statewide would step on their freedom of speech.
Anita Milanovich is a Butte Attorney representing the Montana Family Foundation. The Montana Family Foundation website says marriage should be between one man and women woman.
"HB 465 threatens First Amendment freedoms by forcing individuals and organizations to speak or act contrary to their convictions and sincerely held religious beliefs,” Milanovich says.
The House Judiciary Committee did not vote on the bill following its initial hearing.
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