It appears Havre Republican Kristin Hansen's crusade to overturn Missoula's anti-discrimination ordinance has roots in one of the country's largest and most conservative evangelical Christian organizations.
The Washington Independent reports that Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family is championing, and perhaps even drafted language for, bills seeking to limit the rights of homosexuals in Montana, Kansas and Tennessee.
All three bills have something in common beyond the discrimination they seek to protect. They all have ties to Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based evangelical Christian organization that advocates prayer in schools and is outspokenly opposed to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. In an interview with the Billings Gazette, Rep. Hansen, the sponsor of the Montana bill, said that the Montana Family Foundation brought an already-drafted version of the bill to her so that she could introduce it to the Montana House. As it proclaims on its website, the Montana Family Foundation is affiliated with Focus on the Family.
Meanwhile, Citizen Link issued a press release about Rep. Casada’s Tennessee bill nearly a month before he introduced it to the House. Citizen Link is a subsidiary of Focus on the Family and publishes the latter organization’s in-house magazine, Citizen.
And in Kansas, one of the principal advocates of the House’s convoluted discrimination bill has been the Alliance Defense Fund. The Alliance Defense Fund was co-founded by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson. Focus on the Family was also responsible for a series of Colorado ads in 2008 which claimed that an anti-discrimination bill then being debated would allow sexual predators to cross-dress and enter restrooms meant for the opposite sex in order to sexually assault children. The bill became law despite the ad campaign.
On Wednesday, the Montana House passed House Bill 516, sponsored by Hansen, by a vote of 62-37. The bill now heads to the Senate.
Meanwhile, as the Missoulian reports, Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, has pledged to "work around the clock" to oust Hansen.
Last April, the Missoula City Council approved the city's anti-discrimination ordinance, the state's first. It provides legal recourse to individuals denied services, employment or housing based on gender identity or sexual orientation.