Dallas Erickson just won't quit.
After his persistent but ultimately futile attempts to put the kibosh on Missoula's antidiscrimination ordinance, the anti-gay crusader from the Bitterroot Valley, along with Big Sky Christian Center pastor Harris Himes, are working with Rep. Kristin Hansen, R-Havre, to pass a state law that would retroactively forbid any local governments from crafting a civil rights ordinance like Missoula's.
Call it the anti-antidiscrimination bill.
"I think that's outrageous, and we will be sharing some pieces of our mind on that one," says Missoula City Councilman Dave Strohmaier who, along with fellow councilmember Stacy Rye, introduced the citywide antidiscrimination law—the state's first—that makes it illegal to deny services, housing or employment to people based on sexual orientation or gender expression.
Hansen remains mum on the yet-to-be-drafted bill. But Erickson says a law is needed to protect children from homosexuals—whom he blames for sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and Boy Scouts—and to give employers the right to deny employment to them.
"I think if I've got a youth group, and I have to hire somebody, I shouldn't have to hire a gay person," Erickson says. "And if I refuse that person because he or she is gay, I shouldn't be sued for discrimination."
Research has repeatedly debunked claims promulgated by Erickson and others of his ilk. Gay people are no more likely than heterosexuals to be pedophiles, according to data compiled by a number of institutions including the University of California-Davis.
Erickson's fanatical misinformation campaign would be laughable if it wasn't so profoundly harmful. In reality, Montana's children don't need protection from homosexuals. They need protection from homophobes like Erickson. His message marks gay people as deviants deserving of fewer rights than straight people. In a society keen on branding homosexuals as perverts and pedophiles, it should come as no surprise that gay teens are up to four times more likely than heterosexual peers to commit suicide. Just last year, the nation watched as a spate of persecuted teenagers killed themselves in highly publicized incidents. Those teens faced ostracism, bullying and verbal abuse.
If the Montana Legislature endorses Erickson's message, not only will lawmakers be signing off on state-sanctioned discrimination, they will hurt the same young people Erickson and his peers claim they want to protect.