Fourteen years ago the Montana Supreme Court ruled that a state law criminalizing gay sex violates Montana’s constitution, yet the Montana Legislature has repeatedly failed to scrub the language, which places homosexuality in the same legal category as bestiality, from the books. This session’s effort, sponsored by Sen. Tom Facey, D-Missoula, died in a House committee last month after passage in the Senate.
The legislature’s inaction was not, it turns out, another non-priority falling off the too-long to-do list. Rather, it’s homophobic lawmakers subtly suggesting that homosexual acts should still be outlawed, the Supreme Court—and equal rights in general—be damned. In fact, at least one lawmaker, Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings, an attorney, argues that the archaic law may still apply in certain situations.
Which situations? According to Peterson, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, there are at least two prosecutable offenses—felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. One is the “recruitment” of non-gays. “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 hasn’t actually seen this happen, he says, because “I don’t associate with that group of people at all… I’ve associated with mainstream people all my life.”
Well, I try to associate with mainstream folks as well, but I still occasionally witness attempted recruitment of adults – and, yes, even children!! – into behavior that is far more dangerous, individually and societally, than homosexuality ever could be: religion. And unlike homosexuality, when children are ‘recruited’ into religion it is almost exclusively by adult-led coercion.
That is the form of recruitment that should be a first-degree felony.