The Montana State Legislature passed on a bill that would have assured LGBTQ state protections from discrimination across the state.
Montana legislators voted 11-8 to table H.B. 417 in the judiciary committee, NewNowNext reports. According to KTVQ, H.B. 417 supporters brought a vote to bring the bill over to the House, but the GOP-controlled legislature struck the measure down with a 55-43 vote. This effectively killed the bill.
H.B. 417, introduced by Rep. Kelly McCarthy (D), would have expanded the Montana Human Rights Act to include measures barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and “gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.” The act currently bans discrimination based on age, family, marital status, nationality, physical or mental disabilities, race, religion, and sex. The law also bans discrimination against political beliefs in government.
If passed, the bill would have protected LGBTQ citizens from discrimination in education, credit, employment, financing, housing, state and local government services, and public accommodations.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Montana currently does not provide any antidiscrimination measures for LGBTQ people. This includes school discrimination and anti-bullying measures.
Montana LGBTQ citizens testified in support of the bill. Army veteran Kathleen O’Donnell said she was turned away from a landlord after revealing that her fiancé was another woman. “He looked me in the eye and said, ‘I do not rent to your kind,'” O’Donnell told the judiciary committee.
One Republican representative, Lola Sheldon-Galloway, feared that amendments to the Montana Human Rights Act would cause a slippery slope effect within the state. “Next, we’re going to have another group here that wants their name in [the Human Rights Act]. And another group, and another group,” she argued, according to NewNowNext.
Sheldon-Galloway also wrongly believed that the inclusion of “sex” within the Montana Human Rights Act already protected LGBTQ citizens (it instead refers, as it traditionally does, to biologically being a man or a woman). “I’m not trying to divide you,” she said. “I’m trying to include you in… But you’re already protected and I will stand with you in that protection.”