The Montana state senate Wednesday, with bipartisan support, voted to remove the state’s anti-sodomy law from the books, the Associated Press reports.
The law had been struck down by the Montana supreme court in 1997, six years before the U.S. Supreme Court voided all state sodomy laws, but had remained part of the state’s legal code.
The senate approved removal of the law by a 41-9 vote, with 19 of the 28 Republican senators supporting the move. Even though the state Republican platform has called for criminalizing gay sex ever since the 1997 supreme court decision, the AP noted, “A noticeable shift in public opinion over sexual issues in the years since then, and the GOP’s support for individual freedoms, led some Republicans to throw their weight behind the often Democrat-backed issue.”
Sen. Tom Facey, a Democrat, sponsored the repeal bill, and another Democrat, Sen. Christine Kaufmann, spoke fervently in support of the measure, with references to her relationship with a female partner.
“For 30 years the words in this code have aligned me with people who molest animals,” Kaufmann said. “You have many gay and lesbian members of your community who live under these words every day.”
LGBT activists saw Wednesday’s vote as an important step forward. “We are thrilled to see the Montana senate finally [vote to] remove unconstitutional language that is both hurtful and demeaning to gay and lesbian Montanans from the law books,” Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network said in a statement.
The measure will go through one more vote, largely procedural, in the senate before moving to the house, the AP reports.