A Montana state senator said this week that LGBTQ+ people bring violence on themselves by “their choice to live a perverse lifestyle,” with actions such as holding hands with partners in public.
Republican Sen. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton made the remarks Wednesday at an event defending a minister and real estate agent who’s been accused of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and hate speech, TV station KPVI reports.
Brandon Huber, lead pastor of Clinton Community Church, this summer found Pride-themed fliers in free sack lunches the church was distributing in conjunction with the Missoula Food Bank. The church then ended its arrangement with the food bank and started its own free lunch program. Huber announced in a Facebook post that the fliers conflicted with “biblical doctrine.”
Huber works part-time for Windermere Real Estate in Missoula and is a member of the Missoula Organization of Realtors. After the incident with the food bank, a Clinton resident filed an ethics complaint with the real estate group, saying Huber “cannot separate his religious bias from his entire person and will continue to be inherently biased against the LGBTQIAS+ community in any and all circumstances.”
Huber will have a hearing before the group December 2, and if it finds he violated the ethics code, his membership could be terminated and he could be fined $5,000, the Missoulian newspaper reports. In the meantime he has filed a lawsuit against the organization that says he was wrongly accused of hate speech and that “the Realtors’ hate-speech prohibition violated the Montana Constitution and is too vague under Montana contract law to be enforced.”
Manzella joined several other speakers at the Wednesday event at Huber’s church, one of six stops on what’s dubbed the “God, Country, Family” tour, aimed at supporting Huber and raising money to fund his lawsuit.
“I don’t know if their intention is to target him, I don’t know,” Manzella said of the real estate group, according to KPVI. “But I think they’ve made an awfully big mistake because our founding documents make it clear that he most certainly has the right to stand on his sincerely held beliefs, and I’m actually embarrassed for them, because it is one they’re going to lose.”
“This is one we’re going to win,” she continued. “My right to live a righteous lifestyle based on my sincerely held beliefs does not end where their choice to live a perverse lifestyle begins.”
She claimed LGBTQ+ people are trying to recruit young people and that if same-sex couples fear being attacked for holding hands in public, “I think those are normal consequences associated with the choices they made.” LGBTQ+ people often try to “play the protected class card,” she added.
Others speaking in support of Huber included Pastor Jordan Hall, who founded the Montana Daily Gazette, a right-wing news source; Al Olszewski, a Republican congressional candidate and former state senator; and Leah Southwell of the John Birch Society.
About 15 protesters greeted attendees along the way to the church. “This is not our community,” Sam Kelley, mother of a child who is part of the LGBTQ+ community, told the TV station. Her child attends Clinton schools, and Huber is a member of the school board.
She said the protesters didn’t enter the church because they didn’t “violate anybody’s personal space,” adding, “We just want the community to know that this is not how we feel.”