`A vote on a bill sponsored by Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, effectively overturning a Missoula ordinance prohibiting discriminating against gays, has raised a firestorm.
The battle has included threats that have been turned over to law enforcement.
Hansen told the Havre Daily News Wednesday that she has received numerous threatening e-mails regarding her bill, which passed the House 62-37 and has been transmitted to the Senate.
“Two of them were so threatening that the House sergeant-at-arms turned them over to the Helena police for follow-up investigation,” she said.
She added that this issue should not be what the media is focusing on — many bills, including a bill she carried that addresses problems in annexation and another of her bill dealing with long-term care facilities’ ability to collect past-due debts, are being ignored.
“Those are important also. Saving the care center thousands of dollars is a business bill. I'd like to see those stories carry some weight also,” she said.
One comment on the Internet was by Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula. After she tweeted, “Nobody can out grassroot organize Missoulians. Your days are numbered, Rep. Hansen. It’s on,” some cried foul, saying in these days of politically correct rhetoric that kind of comment should not be made.
A tweet on the MontanaGOP twitter site compared Hill's words to Rep. Denny Rehberg’s comment about placing judges on the endangered species list.
“You jumped all over Rehberg. Payback is hell. Why did you delete the tweet if you're so proud of it?” is asked on a twitpic page listing Hill’s comment, linked to by the tweet on the GOP page.
Hill told the Havre Daily News Wednesday that she likes Hansen and often votes with her on issues on the House Judiciary Committee, but she is offended that she would carry a bill proposed by people trying to target and discriminate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.
“I mean no ill will or disrespect to Representative Hansen personally,” she e-mailed the Havre Daily News. “I am just willing to publicly say that if she's going to come into our community in attempt to change Missoula laws, Missoulians (and Montanans statewide) who fight for equality and equal rights for all Montanans are ready to exercise our rights to go into her community and ensure someone with different values is elected in 2012.
“I'm not interested in engaging in personal attacks, I would rather talk policy,” Hill added. “I don't agree that gays should be discriminated against. I don't think Missoula's local governmental powers should be targeted for discriminatory political ideology.”
Hansen said Wednesday that she does not necessarily feel threatened by Hill's comment,
“I presume she meant my legislative days, not my days remaining on earth. But I do think the tweet is irresponsible … ,” Hansen e-mailed the Havre Daily News. “For a sitting representative to passionately advocate for my demise in a way that could be misinterpreted by her readers certainly could lead people the wrong direction.”
Hill said she cannot see any connection to Rehberg’s comments.
“I don't see what Representative Rehberg's reference — in a prepared speech — that a federal judge should be put on the Federal Endangered Species list has to with a 140 character Twitter post about Forward Montana's efforts to organize pro-equality candidates for the 2012 election effort, specifically in light of the tragedy with Representative Giffords, and I am not willing to engage in that type of political rhetoric,” she said.
Hansen said she sponsored the bill at the request of the Montana Family Foundation.
“The Missoula ordinance circumvents the Montana Human Rights Act, which is the exclusive remedy for discrimination claims in Montana, and which provides businesses with protections through the human rights hearings process,” she said.
The Missoula ordinance sets up separate regulations, leaving businesses in the community facing an unknown set of procedures regarding discrimination claims, but only for sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, with no appeal process.
“Simply put, Missoula stepped too far over the line into state jurisdiction. It would also keep other local governing entities from setting up their own protected classes; i.e. Colstrip couldn't set up a protected class for coal miners' daughters,” she said. “My bill would re-assert paramount state rights on the issue.”
Hill told the Havre Daily News in an e-mail that, despite her liking Hansen, she cannot support her work on HB 516.
“Not only do I believe her efforts to overturn a Missoula ordinance were legally misguided, I am offended that she would agree to carry a bill proposed by Dallas Erickson/Rev. Harris Himes in an effort, not to overturn a local municipality's Constitutional ability to enact local laws, but in an effort to target and discriminate against our LGBT community,” she said.
She said Himes, one of the original sponsors of the bill, “stood before the House Judiciary committee and stated that homosexuals are an abomination to God and the punishment for homosexuality should be death.”
Rep. Kris Hansen, R-Havre: (406) 461-2456; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula: (406) 218-9608; email@example.com