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Bill prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation

Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings

By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA – A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against anyone based on their gender identity or expression or sexual orientation will have a hearing at the Montana Legislature Wednesday.

“All we’re saying is that you don’t get to single out people and deny them the rights that the rest of us have because you don’t like something about them,” said Rep. Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings, who’s carrying House Bill 417.

The bill would protect against discrimination in cases like housing, employment and education.

Montana law already protects against discrimination based on sex, race, religion, physical or mental disability, age, color, creed and national origin.

Last session, a similar bill did not make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, did not support the bill in 2015.

“I’m just not interested in adding additional classes of people that identify theirselves as different than the rest of the population, and think they need a discrimination protection against that,” Smith said.

Gender identity or expression is defined in the bill as “gender-related identity, appearance, expression, or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth,” and sexual orientation “exclusively means actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.”

The House Judiciary Committee hears HB 417 Wednesday morning.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.