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Montanans gathered at the Capitol to address same-sex marriage b - KXLH.com | Helena, Montana

Montanans gathered at the Capitol to address same-sex marriage bill

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HELENA -- Same-sex marriage has been legal in Montana since a court ruling in November and Friday at the Legislature, supporters and opponents turned out to speak on a bill that would change some language of the law to reflect that.

House Bill 282 would strike a section of law that bans same sex marriage in the state. Because of the November order by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris, that law isn't being enforced.

Representative Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula), the bill's sponsor, said Montanans have come to know their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) friends, neighbors, and co-workers. “They've come to realize they were real people, with real joys and sorrows, struggles and triumphs,” he told the House Judiciary Committee. “LGBT people are just the same as everyone else in Montana and clearly deserve to have equal protection in our statutes.”

Linda Bryzcan, a Helena mediator, was half of the first same-sex couple to marry in Lewis and Clark County on November 20, the day after Morris' order. “My spouse and I, after 31 years, decided to make it formal,” she said. “It was a very long engagement.”

“Today you have the opportunity to respect that celebration,” said Niki Zupanic, public policy director of the ACLU-Montana. “You have the opportunity to respect the commitment that those couples have.”

Legal counsel to Governor Steve Bullock (D) Andy Huff called the ban on same-sex marriage “...the most insidious kind of discrimination because it is discrimination that is endorsed and maintained by the laws of the state.”  

A crowd lined up to speak against the bill, with many saying child-rearing was done best by a mother and father.

“Marriage, this triangle of truism of father, mother, and child cannot be destroyed,” Dick Pence of the Billings Family Action Committee said, quoting early-20th century writer G.K. Chesterton. “It can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.”

He said “LGBT activists,”  were pushing the Legislation in concert with the ACLU and others.

Ed Halland of Bridger said he respected LGBT people. “I believe they are loving and kind,” he said. “I believe they need equal protection under the law, but not special protection.”

Arlene DeBoer of Laurel Baptist Bible Church urged lawmakers to look deep inside their hearts. “You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free,” she said. “We do love one another. We do help one another. But we believe that sodomy is wrong.”

Same-sex marriage is still banned by a state Constitutional initiative passed by two-thirds of voters in 2004, although that ban too cannot be enforced because of Morris' order.

The U.S. Supreme Court is still taking a look at a laws banning gay marriage elsewhere in the country. A ruling on laws that ban same-sex marriage is expected this summer, which could be the final legal word on the matter.

Several of the opponents and proponents of HB 282 also weighed in at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which considered and then tabled Senate Bill 179, which would have banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation statewide.

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