Archive for Judiciary
Today, during a debate on a bill, from Rep. Wendy Warburton (R-Havre), that seeks to amend Montana’s constitution to state that women have no right to an abortion, Sen. Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) made some terribly offensive comments. He referenced women seeking an abortion after becoming pregnant as a result of rape or incest, he said, “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The bill failed to receive the necessary votes and is likely dead. It would have required 100 total votes from the full legislature.
This bill is part of a radical anti-choice agenda being pushed by Republicans in the legislature. They seek to unnecessarily involve government in the private medical decisions–decisions that should be left to a woman and her doctor.
Other measure the GOP has pushed include HB 280, which would require an ultrasound before a woman can access abortion services as well as SB 176, which would make it harder for women to have reproductive health services covered by their insurance.
Rep. Ken Peterson has been strongly criticized for the way he’s run the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is the chair.
Today, he wasn’t just criticized for how he runs the committee, he was also criticized for his bizarre comments to the Missoula Independent.
In an article about Sen. Facey’s bill that seeks to remove unconstitutional language from our criminal code; language criminalizing homosexual acts, Rep. Peterson attempted to defend his opposition to removing this language. He argues that despite the court ruling, the law is still enforceable in certain circumstances.
First, he believes gays and lesbians are attempting to “recruit” heterosexual people. He told the Missoula Independent:
“Homosexuals can’t go out into the heterosexual community and try to recruit people, or try to enlist them in homosexual acts,” Peterson says. He provides an example: “‘Here, young man, your hormones are raging. Let’s go in this bedroom, and we’ll engage in some homosexual acts. You’ll find you like it.’”
Peterson also believes that public displays of homosexuality are considered a felony. He said:
“In my mind, if they were engaging in acts in public that could be construed as homosexual, it would violate that statute. It has to be more than affection. It has to be overt homosexual acts of some kind or another… If kissing goes to that extent, yes. If it’s more than that, yes.”
Unfortunately for Rep. Peterson (who is a lawyer) his legal analysis has been roundly refuted by all legal experts, who say both the Montana and U.S. Supreme Courts have ruled this statute and similar statues unconstitutional.
Today, Republicans in the House gave initial approval to a measure that would dramatically re-write the way our judicial system works in the state. The measure would put to the voters a ballot measure to elect Montana Supreme Court justices from districts, rather than electing them on a state-wide basis as they currently are.
This plan would dramatically change how our Supreme Court works. Currently, each justice is charged with the task of protecting and interpreting the constitution. Under the Republican proposal, would be looking out for the interests of moneyed interests in their district rather than protecting the Constitution.
In addition, voters would have less say about who serves on the Supreme Court. Rather than having their voice heard every election on justices, each district created under this bill would only vote on their representation once every eight years.
During floor debate, Democrats also brought up the point that this measure would open the door to corporate corruption on the Supreme Court. Corporations who want to ensure they have a favorable Supreme Court could spend a small amount of money in a few districts and dramatically change the make-up of the courts.
Finally, this bill would open the door to gerrymandering by politically powerful people to drowned out the votes of people they do not want adequately represented on the Court.
The bill will face final approval tomorrow in the House.
For nearly a year Montanans have heard about an outdated and unconstitutional line in the state’s criminal code. This code, which was struck down in 1997, stated homosexual acts between two consenting adults was a felony with strict punishments.
The code initially received attention when it was discovered that the Montana Republican Party platform contained language in support of this unconstitutional law.
This session. Sen. Facey (D-Missoula) introduced legislation to remove this unenforceable law from our books. It received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate. However, it received a much colder response in the House, where it was killed in the House Judiciary Committee.
Today, Rep. Diane Sands, the first openly gay member of the Montana legislature, attempted to force a full floor debate of the bill. When introducing her motion, Rep. Sands spoke about the impact that these words have on people and the value we hold in our state constitution. The sentiment was echoed by Republican Rep. Steve Gibson, who spoke about the principles his party purports to believe.
Ultimately though, the measure was unsuccessful in the House when a majority of Republicans reinforced their commitment to keeping this unconstitutional law on our books.
However, one small victory that was seen today, was the fact that 51 members of the House voted to get this bill out of committee and onto the full floor. This is the largest number of House members to every should apparent support for the bill.
Montana Republicans continued their radical social agenda today in the House.
Today, Rep. Wendy Warburton (R-Havre) introduced a series of bills that seek to add barriers between a woman and her doctor, as it relates to her reproductive health choices.
Both bills, seek to amend our Montana Constitution. The first, Hb 490, seeks to constitutionally define what is a person. Under Rep. Warburton’s bill, a fetus would attain person-hood status at the moment of conception. This bill would seek to eliminate all access to abortion services in the state.
The second bill, Hb 574, seeks to state that their is no constitutional right to abortion services in the state of Montana. This bill flies in direct confrontation to rulings from both the Montana and US Supreme Courts’ rulings.
These bills are a part of a strategy by extremist Republicans to infringe on the constitutionally protected right to reproductive health services in the state.
In order to become law, both bills much received 100 votes in the legislature and then are sent to the voters for final approval. HB 490 received 62 votes in the house. HB 574 received 65 votes.