HELENA (AP) — A western Montana man is proposing a constitutional amendment that would require the state Legislature to have an equal number of men and women.
John Marshall of Hot Springs submitted his proposal to the secretary of state's office last week, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported. It must pass review by the attorney general's office and the Montana Legislative Services Division.
If the language is approved, Marshall could begin gathering the 48,000 signatures of registered voters he would need to get the proposal on the 2014 ballot.
"Let's be the first state in the nation to set quotas by gender," Marshall said. "We'll catch the attention of the nation. It will benefit the state economically, socially and culturally in the future."
Marshall said legislative gender equity would create a stronger democracy, noting that U.S. Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Mark Pryor of Arkansas said the recent partial government shutdown wouldn't have ended without the work of female senators.
"Women are better at sitting down and negotiating and compromising and coming up with legislation than men," said Marshall, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate as a Libertarian last year.
Montana's current Legislature is made up of 108 men and 42 women.
Democratic Rep. Franke Wilmer of Bozeman said she doesn't think Montana has the political culture to support a mandate like Marshall proposes. But she noted, "The public discussion this would generate would be very interesting."
Republican Rep. Pat Ingraham of Thompson Falls opposed the proposal. He said those running for a seat in the Legislature have to be committed to the job, and he doesn't think a gender mandate would be a wise decision.