Legislating sexuality

On homosexuality, the Montana GOP and Ugandan Parliament both have it wrong.
By
  • Mike Munzenrider
September 28, 2010



The Montana GOP and the Ugandan Parliament aren’t usually known for seeing eye-to-eye on many policy ideas, but there is at least one instance where their priorities are shockingly in line: They would both make homosexuality a crime.

The situation in Uganda has been on the radar for almost a year. The Ugandan “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” was introduced last October by a member of its parliament, David Bahati. Due to wide-ranging international pressure, the bill’s more draconian measures have been blunted, but it would still call for the execution of gays and lesbians who had sex while HIV positive, or who practiced homosexual acts more than once. The bill has yet to go to vote.

The Montanan side of the story came to light a little more than a week ago. The Associated Press reported that, in June, the Montana GOP adopted a party platform that included this statement: “We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.” The plank itself is a vestigial part of policy left over from 1997, when the state Supreme Court overturned a law that had made homosexual acts illegal. It’s both amazing and troubling that the policy has persisted for so long.

As with any embarrassing revelation, members of the Montana GOP are split. Some are reacting with incredulous surprise, like Republican state Sen. John Brueggeman, who said, “I looked at that and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ” He continued, “Should it get taken out? Absolutely. Does anybody think we should be arresting homosexual people? If you take that stand, you really probably shouldn’t be in the Republican Party.”

On the other side, some Montana Republicans are tacitly backing the plan, yet with hedged answers all the same. “There had been at the time, and still is, a substantial portion of Republican legislators that believe it is more important for the Legislature to make the law instead of the Supreme Court,” said Montana GOP Executive Director Bowen Greenwood.

If only there were two Brueggemans out there for every Greenwood. While Brueggeman unflinchingly calls an unjust measure exactly what it is, he continues on to explain how intellectually dishonest it is, in light of other Republican values. On the other hand, Greenwood seems to want to cover his ears and yell, ‘Activist judges!’ all the while propping up the abhorrent idea.

It’s telling that the plank remained a part of the platform for 13 years. Greenwood states that no one has taken action to remove it, and in fact, it has never come up for discussion.

Legally speaking, the measure is a moot point. Constitutional specialist Jack Tuholske states that due to the previously mentioned Supreme Court ruling, “[It’s against] the fundamental law of the land and the Legislature can’t override the Constitution. It might express their view, but as far as a legal reality, it’s a hollow view and can’t come to pass.”

As of right now, the plank is still a part of the official platform. While it does not advocate for the same cruelty that the Ugandan bill does, in essence, both statements mean the same thing: Homosexuals are second-class citizens.

The Ugandan bill has faltered, while the Montana GOP continues to support an unsupportable idea. Contact them at www.mtgop.org/contact.aspx and let them know what you think.

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