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House tackles more social issues


HELENA — The Montana House tackled another round of social bills on Tuesday, dealing blows to gay advocates seeking to repeal a law that makes gay sex a crime while separately giving a victory to abortion foes trying to make it harder for teens to get the procedure.

Republicans running the chamber largely got their way on both issues, but many from their ranks split on a vote brought by Democrats attempting to advance from a committee a plan to repeal the antiquated anti-gay law.

The attempt failed despite a 51-47 vote in favor of the move; 60 votes are needed to take the measure out of the committee that opposes the legislation.

Meanwhile, Republicans backing parental notification before an abortion for those under 18 advanced two measures Tuesday in floor debate.

One bill calls for a notification requirement that would go to Gov. Brian Schweitzer for his signature if it passes the chamber in a final vote expected Wednesday.

Republican backers also have launched an alternative proposal to put the question directly to voters in 2012, a plan that must yet go to the Senate.

Supporters argue parents have a right to be told prior to a child having an abortion. Opponents argued that is not a good idea in all cases.

The measure attempting to repeal the anti-gay law had overwhelmingly cleared the Senate before it got locked up this month in a House committee. The law remains on the books even though the courts ruled it unconstitutional and unenforceable in the 1990s.

Some Republicans argue that the court's decision on the matter is sufficient and there is no need to remove the law from the books. The Montana Republican Party platform calls for keeping the anti-gay law.

But 19 Republicans in the House bucked the platform and sided with Democrats, with one arguing that Republican principles of freedom, privacy and respect called for repealing it.

"Do you want the government in your bedroom? I don't," said Rep. Steve Gibson, R-Helena.

Rep. Diane Sands, a Missoula Democrat, said she and other gay people lived under the fear of prosecution until the courts ruled the law unconstitutional.

"It's about the value we all place on the constitutional right to privacy and the right of the gay and lesbian community in Montana to not be criminals under the law," Sands said in asking the House to bring the bill forward for a debate.

Reps. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, and Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, voted against bringing the matter to the floor. Rep. Tony Belcourt, D- Box Elder, voted yes.


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