It’s official: The state of Montana no longer considers gay sex a criminal act.
Gov. Steve Bullock Thursday signed into law a measure repealing the law against gay sex, which had remained on the books even though the state Supreme Court struck it down in 1997 and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all such laws unconstitutional in 2003, in its Lawrence v. Texas decision.
“I am not going to speak too long,” Bullock told those gathered at the state capitol for the signing ceremony, Reuters reports. “Because frankly, the longer I talk, the longer this unconstitutional and embarrassing law continues to stay on our books.” The law had classified gay sex as a felony punishable with 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Supporters cheered as Bullock signed the repeal bill, which the state House of Representatives approved last week, following an earlier vote by the state Senate.
Among the celebrants was activist Linda Gryczan, who had filed the lawsuit that led to the 1997 court ruling. “All through this struggle, we’ve said, ‘Not tonight, dear, it’s a felony,’” she said. “Well, now we’re gonna say, ‘Tonight, dear — it’s not a felony!’”
Despite Lawrence v. Texas, several states have kept laws on the books making either heterosexual or homosexual sodomy a crime, sometimes attempting to enforce them, and Montana was one of four with a law designating it a crime only for gay people. The others are Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas; in Texas, a Senate committee this week voted to advance a repeal measure.
Watch a report on the Montana repeal from Helena TV station KXLH below.