Linda Gryczan, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that invalidated Montana’s law criminalizing gay sex 16 years ago, said Tuesday she wasn’t ready for the emotions she felt as she watched the crucial vote that indicates it will be repealed this year.
“I burst into tears,” said Gryczan, who watched from the public gallery as the Montana House voted 64-36 to repeal the law Tuesday.
A final, binding vote is scheduled for today, and the result isn’t likely to change. After that vote, the bill heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who’s expected to sign it.
Gryczan, of Helena, has been fighting for two decades to get rid of the law, which categorizes gay sex as criminal “deviate sexual relations.” The Montana Supreme Court struck down the law in 1997, but efforts to strike the law from the books have been repeatedly blocked in the Legislature, primarily by Republicans — until Tuesday.
She said she’s considered the law “a burr under the saddle that I’ve learned mostly to ignore.”
But taking it off the books means she and other gay and lesbian Montanans no longer will have to “listen to people use their religion as weapons, or to hear their prejudices” as they argue to keep the law, she said.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” Gryczan said. “This is a pretty symbolic victory, but I’ll take it. This means a lot. …
“This has been an incredible, cumulative effort starting with people talking and coming out to their families, their friends, their neighbors and their lawmakers. It has been amazing to watch this movement grow.”
Gryczan and five other gay and lesbian Montanans — three men, three women — filed suit in 1995 to overturn the law, saying it violated Montanans’ rights to privacy, dignity and equal protection under the law.
A district judge ruled in their favor in 1997, and the Montana Supreme Court upheld and expanded on that ruling in a unanimous decision.