MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer
HELENA Gay rights advocates, whose efforts to enact a law that would outlaw discrimination against gays and lesbians failed two years ago, are reviving the issue. Sen. Christine Kaufmann, an openly gay Helena Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would add “gender identity or expression” and “sexual orientation” as categories under the laws prohibiting discrimination. The laws currently cover race, religion, gender and other areas. Kaufmann said her proposal makes good on promises of equality laid out in the state and U.S. constitutions. She compared the measure to the civil rights movement. “When we as a society fail to recognize the basic humanity of some people, civil rights laws with their designated classes are needed,” she told the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday. Opponents said the measure discriminates against Christians who believe homosexuality is immoral, or extends legal privileges that will be used in ways that can’t be predicted. The measure was supported by groups such as the Montana ACLU, the Montana Advocacy Program, the Montana Human Rights Network and gay activists. It was opposed by the Montana Citizens for Decency Through Law, the Eagle Forum, the Montana Catholic Conference, the Montana Boy Scouts and others. One said it could lead to special restrooms for transgendered people or others. “I don’t know what they would put on (the doors). Maybe a question mark,” said Dallas Erickson, with Montana Citizens for Decency Through Law. Harris Himes, with the Montana Values Alliance, said the gender “expression” portion of the measure could cause unforeseen problems. “What if your expression is pedophilia?” he said. “Again, you have that kind of potential conflict here.” The governor’s office supports the bill. Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger said there was a time that the state discriminated against people by race and gender laws that have been overturned. “Our support for the bill is based on the belief that freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right,” he said. “Montana has a responsibility to deliver its promise of equality and justice for all its citizens.” Kaufmann’s bill is Senate Bill 371.