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“Former Felons” Party in Helena

PHOTO: Gov. Bullock signs SB 107 today, decriminalizing homosexual behavior in Montana.
PHOTO: Gov. Bullock signs SB 107 today, decriminalizing homosexual behavior in Montana.
April 18, 2013

HELENA, Mont. - Today is signing day for Senate Bill 107, which led to intense debate about the tradition of long-standing state law versus human rights.

The bill being inked by Gov. Steve Bullock will change state law so that consensual homosexual behavior is no longer a felony punishable by up to a $50,000 fine and/or 10 years in prison.

Niki Zupanic, public policy director for ACLU of Montana, said cleaning up the books was the right thing to do.

"Words do matter and it does make a difference," she said. "It's confusing, it's disrespectful, and so it was really great to have it taken off."

The law has been unenforceable since ruled unconstitutional in 1997.

The ACLU, Montana Human Rights Network, Pride Foundation and Planned Parenthood of Montana are among the groups sponsoring a "former felons celebration" tonight to mark the change in law. Zupanic said there also will be discussion about pushing for anti-discrimination protections.

"You can still be fired in the state of Montana," Zupanic said. "You can be denied housing. You can be kicked out of a business - just because someone disagrees with your sexual orientation or your gender identity or expression."

Missoula and Helena have passed local anti-discrimination laws.

The celebration will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Jorgenson's Ballroom, 1714 11th Ave., Helena.

A text of SB 107 is online at legiscan.com.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT