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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Legislature Debates Non-discrimination Protections For LGBTQ Montanans

The Capitol dome in Helena, MT.
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio
Montana Capitol dome

Montana's House Judiciary Committee heard impassioned testimony today from both sides of House Bill 417 to extend non-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people across Montana."We all should have the same rights and privileges under law so that’s currently not in there," says bill sponsor Kelly McCarthy, a Democrat from Billings. "This bill would fix that for the state of Montana."

Some opponents, like Jeff Laszloffy, president of Montana Family Foundation, say this legislation is unnecessary.

"The bill’s premise is that people are targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and therefore are in need of special protection," says Laszloffy. "Fortunately, that premise is false."

Several advocates recounted incidents of discrimination because of their sexual orientation while some opponents countered with testimony that the proposed law would impinge on their religious expression.

"Someone talked about the fact that they feel like they might be losing a privilege if we pass this, and I don’t know that discrimination is a privilege worth defending," McCarthy says.

Despite an already long string of prior defeats, proponents this time argue that extending protections would be good for business.

They cited last year's controversy in North Carolina as an example of the business ramifications. The Tar Heel state found itself under fire when it passed a law prohibiting legal protections for LGBTQ people.

Tune in tomorrow for more on this story.

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