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Lawmakers review bill putting Montana LBGT community under legal protection

Published On: Feb 19 2013 06:36:21 PM MST   Updated On: Feb 20 2013 11:59:42 AM MST
Lawmakers review bill putting Montana LGBT community under legal protection

In Helena, lawmakers are reviewing a bill that would put Montana's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community under protection of the state's human rights act.

House Bill 481 would officially prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, expression or sexual orientation.

The cities of Missoula and Helena both have municipal laws protecting against discrimination.

House bill 481 would install protections statewide.

Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee.

Supporters of the bill said most lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered Montanans can be fired from jobs, and denied housing and public accommodations based on their sexual identities.

Opponents said 481 would open expensive doors.

They said it could force organizations to build additional bathrooms to accommodate everyone, and prohibit churches and other religious organizations from teaching their personal beliefs.

"The ramifications of this bill in our society," said opponent Dallas Erickson, "would be immense and expensive and destructive to the values of our state."

But supporter Caitlin Copple said, "I think fairness is a fundamental Montana value and I think our legislators need to hear that and be reminded that we are people and are productive members of society."

This isn't the first time legislation like this has appeared in Helena.

Supporters of such protections have been working for at least 20 years in getting such legislation passed.