The Montana house on Monday killed a bill that would have extended the state's hate-crimes law to protect gays. The bill would have made it a crime to target people based on such factors as age, economic condition, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. It was rejected 54-46.
State law already outlaws intimidating or harassing someone because of race, religion, color, creed, or national origin. Offenses carry a minimum two-year prison term. Debate focused mainly on whether the law should cover crimes against gays and lesbians.
Republicans, who accounted for all but five of the opponents, declared that the bill would stifle free speech and could prevent clergy from speaking out against homosexuality in their sermons. Supporters said that the bill aimed to protect people who could be targeted due to their belonging to a certain group. Similar bills have failed in each of the six preceding legislative sessions. A similar bill in the state senate has been stalled in committee since January. (AP)