Montana Bill to Ban Local Transgender, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Protections Abandoned by Senate
April 4, 2011 - Montana House Bill 516 - which would have made it unlawful for any city, town or county in the state to pass a law protecting transgender, lesbian, gay or bisexual Montanans from discrimination - is all but dead. Just one day after receiving TLDEF’s letter expressing concerns about the bill’s constitutionality, the Montana Senate sent the bill back to committee to die. Last Friday, that committee concluded its work without reviving the bill. So while nothing is guaranteed until the full legislature's session ends on April 29th, as of last Friday, the time for virtually all of the maneuvers that could resuscitate the bill had expired. The bill had previously passed the Montana House of Representatives.
We congratulate the ACLU of Montana, the Montana Human Rights Network, and all of the individuals who spoke out against HB 516 and turned the tide against it. We are thrilled to have helped turn back this attempt to strip transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual Montanans of their constitutional rights. LGBT Montanans want the same right to live and work free from discrimination that everyone else enjoys. It is unconstitutional to target them by taking away their right to pass local laws that protect them from the discrimination that they face in the cities and towns where they live. The government must treat people equally. It violates the Constitution when it closes its doors to its transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual residents simply because some people do not like them.
On April 12, 2010, the City Council of Missoula, Montana passed an ordinance protecting transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual residents from discrimination. Opponents of that law's passage introduced HB 516 in the Montana House of Representatives earlier this year with the specific goal of striking down Missoula’s ordinance and ensuring that no city, town or county in the state could ever enact a law protecting transgender, lesbian, gay or bisexual people from discrimination again.
HB 516 was motivated solely by bias towards transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual people, which is a constitutionally impermissible basis for legislation. It would have deprived transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual people of their right to participate in the political process and seek help from their local governments. And it would have turned transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual Montanans into strangers to a broad swath of Montana’s government, violating constitutional guarantees of equal protection.
HB516 was wrongheaded, mean-spirited and unconstitutional and we are thrilled to see it all but dead. We will keep you updated on any additional developments. As always, thank you for your support.