Most of you probably know that I’m a pretty conservative person of the “let’s all mind our own business” type. I find it hard to align myself with many liberal causes, and my reaction to many perceived anti-gay “outrages” is to privately disagree that the “outrage” in question is really as outrageous as it is deemed. (As a straight person, however, I realize that my POV is unlikely to be the same as that of a gay person, on any issue.)
But I’m all for common sense and for refraining from intentionally and gratuitously excluding or insulting any of your neighbors, so it is with great consternation that I report the following:
Montana has on its books a statute that specifically criminalizes homosexual sex, consensual or not. (It also criminalizes heterosexual sodomy and oral sex, but homosexual contact of any type is specifically prohibited.) Ironically, Montana also has one of the (if not the) most expansive constitutional rights to privacy in all of the United States – which accords perfectly with the general Montana attitude of “you mind your own business and I’ll mind mine.”
In 1997, several homosexual couples challenged the Montana anti-gay statute (and its chief purpose, to criminalize homosexual sex, means that it is inarguably anti-gay) on the specific grounds that it violated the plaintiffs’ right to privacy under the Montana constitution. A district court judge struck the statute down, finding that it is manifestly unconstitutional. This was appealed to the Montana Supreme Court. The Court unanimously – that’s all of them, conservative and liberal – held that the district court was correct – that Montana’s constitutional protection of the right to privacy meant that consensual sex between adults could not be criminalized. WTG, Supremes.
Fast forward to this legistlative session, where the legislative counsel makes the extremely routine request that the statute in question be removed from the books, since it has been found unconstitutional and therefore having zero legal force or effect. The House Judiciary Committee, after acrimonious debate, has voted 17 to 3 NOT to remove the statute from the books. Unless the matter is revived by a majority vote of the entire House – highly unlikely – this routine “housekeeping” measure is dead and the statute in question will continue to be printed in the statutory codes of the state of Montana.
Why? Because it “sends a message” that “deviant” conduct will “not be tolerated by the people of Montana.” It prevents prison rape (!) (as if consensual homosexual sex equates in any way to rape of any kind, and as if a prison rapist would be deterred by the existence of a meaningless statutory provision). It prevents we innocent straight folk from being “propositioned” by those wanton nymphomaniacal homos (and Lord knows that’s a real problem).
Y’know, I agree that it “sends a message.” It sends a message of clear hostility to people different than the rest of us – a message rendered doubly hostile by being so impotent and toothless. (“We may not be able to stop you, but we want to make it clear we still don’t like you.”) It’s a message of divisiveness, intolerance, and exclusion. (Not to mention the secondary problem, for someone as fastidious as I, that the statutory code is not a forum for the sending of messages of any type.) You don’t have to worry about whether our state is intolerant of you, gay people! No, we’ll spell it right out for you, and refuse to back down from an untenable position even when it is manifestly ridiculous to continue to cling to it.
Nicely done, gentlemen. I’m ashamed of you and deeply ashamed that you represent me.