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http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?display=rednews/2003/02/20/build/local/71-xgr-samesexmarriage.inc

Bill would legalize same-sex marriages in Montana


By COURTNEY LOWERY
Gazette State Bureau
February 20, 2003

HELENA -- A hearing on a proposal to legalize same-sex marriages attracted a crowd Wednesday, with one lawmaker saying the measure would solidify Montana's historic "live and let live" philosophy.

Rep. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, brought the issue forward with his House Bill 607, which would strip all gender references to married partners from Montana law, leaving the door open for same-sex couples legally to marry. A similar measure did not pass during the 2001 session.

Proponents of the bill, which was heard before the House State Administration Committee, said it would send a message of progress and equality. Opponents said it would jeopardize family values and violate the sanctity of marriage.

Rep. Brad Newman, D-Butte, a co-sponsor of the bill, reminded the committee that "in Montana, we are not sheep, we are shepherds," and this bill solidifies Montana's historic "live and let live" philosophy.

"No state in the union has had the courage to recognize same-sex marriages. Proponents of HB607 are asking to open the debate on this issue and asking Montanans to be the first, to be the leaders." Newman said. Vermont recognizes civil unions, but not marriages.

onthenet
HB 607

Karl Olson, executive director of Montana PRIDE, a gay rights group, told the committee that gay and lesbian couples uphold many of the same "family values" that heterosexual couples do. Olson said he and his partner have a downright mundane family life, with Scrabble and spaghetti as a treasured Sunday ritual.

Julie Millam, executive director of the Montana Family Coalition, spoke in opposition to the bill, saying that as the definition of marriage changes, so do values in the state.

"A nation that places more importance on the guarantee of unfettered sexual license than on marriage, children and family stability is slowly, but surely undermining its own survival," she said.

Opponents and proponents were allotted 30 minutes each for testimony. Both sides had more people lined up to speak when time was up. The bill would amend 45 sections of the Montana law, including those pertaining to retirement benefits, next-of-kin laws, decisions made by one's family about health care and others.



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