A Montana lawmaker who voted this week to keep homosexual acts classified as a felony explained to Raw Story on Thursday that he doesn’t really believe sex is only meant for procreation, despite his comments during open debate.
Video of his remarks, captured by local news station KXLH-TV, featured Hagstrom explaining that he believes sex is for procreation only. “Sex that doesn’t produce people is deviate,” he insisted. “That doesn’t mean that it’s a problem. It just means it’s not doing its primary purpose. So I’m just speaking to the bill and I encourage people to vote red.”
“I haven’t seen the tape [of my remarks], but it should show I said sex is for procreation and sex is for pleasure,” Montana state Rep. Dave Hagstrom (R) said. “That’s what I said. I don’t know if that’s what the video says I said… Of course sex has two purposes.”
“If you cut out the second half of the sentence, it doesn’t make any sense at all,” he continued, protesting the context in which his remarks were presented. “Somebody called me and screamed at me on the phone saying, ‘You’ve only had sex four times?’ because I have four children. I said, ‘No, I’ve had sex more times than that.’ He said, ‘Well, you said that the only purpose of sex is to procreate.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s not what I said, I can’t help that.’”
Hagstrom added that “the secondary purpose” of all sex acts between heterosexual and homosexual couples “is to have pleasure.” Pressed on what he believes the primary purpose of homosexual sex to be, he repeated himself, saying: “You can get me on the record, the secondary purpose of sex is pleasure.”
The bill he voted against, which aimed to remove homosexual acts from the definition of “deviate sexual relations” in Montana law, ultimately passed its final legislative hurdle despite 34 Republicans who opposed it. Once the governor signs it into law, being gay will be finally decriminalized in Montana.
However, as far as enforcement is concerned, being gay in Montana has been legal since 1997, when the state’s Supreme Court ruled the statute in question unconstitutional. Still, it has remained on the books since then as the Montana Republican Party clung to the idea that gays should continue to be criminalized, keeping that plank in their party’s platform as recently as 2010.
Confronted on why he remained one of those members who voted to keep homosexuality technically classified as a crime, Hagstrom insisted his vote didn’t even matter, and remains a “moot point.”
“It wasn’t my bill,” he said. “…I’d strike out the whole section which created a felony for any kind of deviate sexual behavior, because it’s archaic and ridiculous. And the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional, so it’s a moot point. Obviously it’s not criminal. Not in the least bit is it criminal. But that’s a moot point. Nobody’s ever been tried and convicted under that. It’s been killed by our Supreme Court.”
Montana’s definition of “deviate sexual relations” has for years also included bestiality — another reason why finally removing homosexuality from the “deviate” classification, though a formality, was an important historical landmark for many LGBT activists in the state.
“It’s been a burr under my saddle for all these years that I’ve just learned to ignore,” Linda Gryczan, whose lawsuit caused the state’s Supreme Court to rules the ban on homosexual acts unconstitutional, told The Great Falls 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 we’ve had an LBGT piece of legislation that passed both houses with a majority vote.”
After being read Hagstrom’s clarification, Montana Human Rights Network organizer Jamee Greer told Raw Story that he doesn’t understand why the representative still voted to keep same sex acts a felony crime. “I can assure you, the majority of his district and the rest of the state does not think such hurtful things,” he said. “He can parse out what he thinks his statement on the floor really means, but his vote says it all.”
“The Montana Human Rights Network has been working on this for decades now, and we’re really happy [with this week's vote],” he added. “We want to celebrate in this victory, but we also acknowledge that while gays and lesbians may not be considered felons under the law, the LGBT community still lacks statewide legal protection in housing and the workplace. We’re trying to get that changed as well.”
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to note Montana's "deviate sexual relations" law includes bestiality, and with a quote from the Montana Human Rights Network.]
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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