A Montana pastor testifying in the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday questioned why people should not be allowed to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I am here primarily as representative of myself and my family, most specifically my children, and that wouldn’t change if one of my children were to come forward and announce themselves as homosexual,” Steve Boettger of the First Baptist Church of Cascade said at the hearing.
“I firmly believe I do not have to agree with someone’s behavior in order to continue loving them.”
The lawmakers were considering legislation that would provide protections for gay, lesbian, and transgender people in the state. The bill would have added “gender identity and expression and sexual orientation” to the Montana Human Rights Act.
Boettger said he wanted to address a topic that he had not heard addressed during the hearing.
“We do, as a culture and as a people, discriminate against behavior, and whether it is voluntary, innate, in-born, a choice, it is really not relevant to the point that it is indeed behavior,” he explained. “For instance, we discriminate against incest. We discriminate against child molestation. We discriminate against a long list of behaviors that have long been believed to be wrong.”
Boettger said he didn’t understand why anyone would want to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
“I don’t understand how it is we could possibly disagree with what thousands of years have said, that most people have agreed is wrong. I think it is easy to understand that every advancement of this agenda… comes at the expense of what our founders, who I believe were right, set forth as our first right, and that is the right of religious expression.”
Boettger concluded that the proposed legislation would prevent him from displaying his religion “openly and proudly.”
The state senators later voted down the bill 7 to 5 along party lines, with Republicans against it.
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