Montana Finally Strikes Law Criminalizing Gay Sex

The law was declared unconstitutional in 1997, but remained on the books until this month.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

April 13 2013 7:30 AM ET

Ten years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that state bans on consensual sex between people of the same gender are unconstitutional, Montana has finally removed from the books its law banning gay sex.

On Wednesday, the Montana state legislature passed Senate Bill 107, which removed from the state code's obsolete language criminalizing gay sex as "deviate sexual conduct," reports ABC News. It passed by a vote of 65-34, and now heads to the Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock for a signaure. 

For Linda Gryczan, who led the court battle to strike down the state's antisodomy law, resulting in the Montana Supreme Court declaring the law was unconstitutional 15 years ago, Wednesday was a symbolic — and emotional — victory. 

"I was actually surprised," Gryczan told Montana's Great Falls Tribune Wednesday. "Knowing it's a symbolic victory, I didn't realize how important it was going to be until it was there."

Until 1997, Montana law declared that gay sex was a felony, punishable by as many as 10 years in prisons and a fine of as much as $50,000, according to the Tribune. Fifteen years ago, the Montana Supreme Court found the law unconstitutional, but it's remained on the books as a not-so-subtle reminder to gay and lesbian people in the state that they were once considered criminally deviant. 

"It's been a burr under my saddle for all these years that I've just learned to ignore," Gryczan told the Tribune. "I just got used to knowing I'm going to hear all these awful things, when people use their holy texts as a weapon. This is the first time in my life we've had an LGBT piece of legislation that passed both houses with a majority vote."

The Montana House of Representatives passed the bill with bipartisan support on Tuesday, according to the Tribune. Republican Rep. Duane Ankney called the outdated law an "embarrassment," and said it "should go away…as quietly as it came."

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