More than three dozen Republican state lawmakers in Montana voted against advancing a bill that would decriminalize gay sex in the state.
Homosexual sex is technically a felony in Montana. Gay sex is classed as "deviate sexual conduct" under a 1973 statute that is unenforceable due to a 1997 state Supreme Court decision and similar US Supreme Court rulings. On Monday, the Montana House of Representatives advanced a bill that would repeal the 1973 law. The House voted 60-38 to take Senate Bill 107 out of the Judiciary Committee and place it on the agenda for a full House vote. Twenty-one Republicans joined the minority Democrats in voting to proceed with the measure, citing the privacy rights of all Montanans. But 38 Republican lawmakers voted against the measure, effectively seeking to keep gay sex a felony offense.
Rep. Krayton Kerns of Laurel was one of the Republicans who voted against advancing SB 107.
"There is an enormous biblical principle here," Kerns explained last week. "There is a truth. I know that public opinion may be swaying with the time but the truth does not sway and so it was default to scripture."
The "biblical truth" to which Kerns referred can be summarized by the following Bible passages:
-Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)
-If a man also lie with mankind, as he lie with woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)
Kerns said it was the height of hypocrisy for the House to open each legislative session with a prayer and then ignore the Bible's prohibition of homosexuality.
"If we abandon our moral compass, we will lose our country," Kerns warned. "It's a simple as that." Kerns implied that LGBT Montanans lacked "moral character."
Kerns' stance, and the fact that 38 Republicans effectively voted to keep gay sex a felony, incensed Rep. Amanda Curtis (D-Butte).
"It was so hard to sit through that and not walk across the floor and punch him," Curtis said of Kerns in a video uploaded on YouTube. "That's so offensive. Talk about starting a fight."
"...To say that our friends and our neighbors and our brothers and sisters and our cousins, aunts and uncles should be felons, and we support this because the Bible says so?... It's wrong," Curtis railed, accusing two of the Republican lawmakers who oppose the bill of "promoting hate."
Curtis praised Republican lawmaker Steve Gibson of East Helena for doing a "beautiful job" of condemning his homophobic colleagues.
Rep. Bryce Bennet (D-Missoula), who made the motion to advance SB 107 to a full house vote, spoke in favor of ending what he believes is the discriminatory criminalization of gay sex.
"Under this law, I am considered a felon," Bennet said. "I am not your equal."
In Virginia, state attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli made headlines last week after he filed a petition in a federal court asking it to reconsider its decision to overturn that state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law, which bans oral and anal sex between consenting adults, both gay and straight.