April 11, 2013 in Region

Bill striking gay sex statute heads to Montana governor

Associated Press
 

HELENA – The woman who led the court battle to strike down a Montana law that made gay sex illegal knows that having the unconstitutional law struck from the books is a symbolic act.

All the same, Linda Gryczan began to cry when the state House finally brought the issue to the floor on Monday.

“I was actually surprised. Knowing it’s a symbolic victory, I didn’t realize how important it was going to be until it was there,” Gryczan told the Great Falls Tribune in a story published Wednesday.

Senate Bill 107, the measure that strikes from the state code the obsolete language criminalizing gay sex as deviate sexual conduct, passed its final legislative hurdle Wednesday with a 65-34 vote in the House.

The Senate approved the bill earlier in the session, but it took the vote of more than 60 representatives to remove the measure from the House committee where it was stuck to hold floor votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. The governor’s office declined to say Wednesday whether Bullock plans to sign the bill.

Gryczan was the lead plaintiff in a 1995 lawsuit that led to the unanimous 1997 Montana Supreme Court decision that ruled the law unconstitutional.

But legislators resisted removing the obsolete language until now, as gay and lesbian advocates protested its continued presence was a reminder they were once considered felons.

“It’s been a burr under my saddle for all these years that I’ve just learned to ignore,” Gryczan said on Tuesday.

She and other advocates hailed the passage of the bill as a landmark victory for gay and lesbian rights in Montana.

Jamee Greer, a human rights activist and a lobbyist for the Montana Human Rights Network, said Republican legislators are coming around to recognizing that gays and lesbians deserve to be treated as equals.

“The fact is language matters, and those words matter. It’s a relief to know this is moving forward,” Greer said.

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