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Hate-crimes bill rejected in Montana


A bill that would have expanded Montana's hate-crimes law to cover attacks based on sexual orientation, gender, and disability was rejected by the state's house of representatives Monday. The bill had failed in a house committee earlier in the day, but Rep. Brad Newman (D-Butte) moved to have the whole house debate the issue. The motion failed, 47-52. "This bill does not chill...or threaten your First Amendment rights to believe what you want to believe," Newman said. "It simply says you can't take that hate to the street and turn it into violence." Republicans were the major force against the bill's passage. Rep. Cindy Younkin (R-Bozeman) said she would be the first person to call for punishment against a person who commits a violent act. "As a woman, I have been a subject of hate, to my face," Younkin said. "But do I think that a person should be punished more because they said it to me than to a man? No." The debate follows news over the weekend out of Helena, Mont., that an openly gay student at the Roman Catholic school Carroll College had been severely beaten in an apparent gay bashing. Younkin called the beating a "reprehensible act" and took exception to the assumption that Republicans are less empathetic.

Meanwhile, in Billings, Mont., police say that a man attacked outside a gay bar early Saturday is in serious condition in a local hospital. A friend said the unidentified 49-year-old victim was attacked outside the Loft bar by two men yelling, "Fucking faggot! You deserve this!" "We can't for sure know what the motivation was," says Loft owner Bill McCarty. "But I don't know how else you could conclude it. What else could it be?" Two men were arrested 10 minutes after the attack one block from the bar, but police have refused to say if they are suspects in the beating.

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