Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Except for gays" in Montana

Last year, the city of Missoula Montana became the first area in the state to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination, through a local ordinance banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression within the city. This has offended the Republican-dominated state legislature, so they're passing a law to overturn it and prohibit any such ordinances within the state:

As sponsor, Hansen said HB516 would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances or policies that seek to protect residents from real or perceived discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender as Missoula did through an ordinance and Bozeman through a policy.

She said the Missoula City Council adopted the ordinance and provided an enforcement mechanism that fell outside of that in the Montana Human Rights Act.

"It would apply retroactively to the city of Missoula's ordinance in order to keep all businesses and all entities on a level playing field," Hansen said. "All discrimination claims will have to go through the human rights procedures as designated by the Montana Human Rights (Commission)."

Of course, the Montana Human Rights Commission does not currently protect LGBT rights (another bill proposes expanding its jurisdiction to do so, but it is unlikely to pass). But then, that's the point: to ensure that such discrimination remains legal. To keep gays outside the protection of the law. To protect the current status quo of hate and bigotry. And as for that constitutional provision requiring equality under the law, as far as Republicans are concerned, it implicitly includes a disclaimer: "except for gays".

The US really is an appalling place, isn't it?