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Montana state lawmaker says LGBTQ+ people attacked is their fault

Manzella told the crowd gathered that members of the LGBTQ community like to “play the protected class card”

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State Senator Theresa Manzella speaking to anti-vax rally earlier this year. (Screenshot via NBC Montana, KECI TV13 Missoula)

MISSOULA, Mt. – A Montana state senator member of far-right group that launched an effort to support a real estate agent and pastor of a local church in Clinton threatened with expulsion from the Missoula Organization of Realtors, told a crowd of supporters this past Wednesday night that LGBTQ+ people are responsible for the hate and extremism directed at them.

State Senator Theresa Manzella (R-Hamilton) is part of the “God, Country, Family” tour stopping in six major municipalities around the state in support of Clinton Community Church’s lead pastor, Brandon Huber.

Manzella told the crowd gathered in Clinton that members of the LGBTQ community like to “play the protected class card,” because queer couples in general have expressed that they’re scared to walk down the street holding hands in fear of possible violence against them for their sexuality, the Missoulian newspaper’s education reporter Skylar Rispens reported.

“I’ve got to tell you, I think those are normal consequences associated with the choices they made,” she said.

Others in the group include Pastor Jordan “JD” Hall, who founded the Montana Daily Gazette,  an extremist right-wing publication that is opposed to coronavirus vaccination mandates, women’s reproductive rights, and LGBTQ+ equality among other issues that conservative activists challenge. The Wednesday night event focused solely on “the LGBTQ agenda.”

The Missoulian reported; “Earlier this summer, the church terminated its relationship with the Missoula Food Bank for its free lunch program after Huber discovered “pride” themed inserts in the sack lunches, saying they were “contrary to the church’s teachings.” The church started its own community lunch program.

In response, a Clinton resident filed an ethics complaint with the Missoula Organization of Realtors that said that 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 a member of the Missoula Organization of Realtors, (MOR) since August 2020 has been outspoken regarding his opposition of the LGBTQ+ community and some of his public statements were categorized as discriminatory and potential hate speech. Huber works as a part-time agent for Windermere Real Estate in Missoula.

Based on the complaint filed by the Clinton resident, in August, the MOR grievance committee said that if the complaint is accurate, it constitutes “potentially unethical conduct.”

According to the Missoulian after the Missoula Organization of Realtors ordered Huber to attend an ethics hearing in December and his refusal to attend or comply with the MOR hearing panel could lead to him being issued up to a $5,000 fine and have his membership terminated.

“Discriminatory conduct, including hate speech, is directly contrary to who Realtors are and should not be tolerated in any profession,” said MOR Chief Executive Officer Jim Bachand in a statement to the Missoulian.

Speaking Wednesday night at the “God, Country, Family” rally Huber told the crowd; ““We never took food away from gay children. If children decided to not come down that was because the parents would not allow them to. It wasn’t because the church refused them.”

He added that his church served about 600 lunches from early July to Aug. 20 through its new program.

“The only question that we asked was ‘how many (lunches) would you like?’ We never asked if your child was gay, we never asked their familial status. So where all this is coming from? I have no clue,” he told the crowd.

Huber filed a lawsuit in Missoula County District Court that claims he was wrongfully accused of hate speech by no longer partnering with the Missoula Food Bank.

The Missoulian noted that Senator Manzella lauded Huber for filing the suit.

“I don’t know if their intention is to target him, I don’t know,” Manzella said about the local Realtor group. “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,” Manzella continued to an eruption of “amens” and applause from attendees. “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.”

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Montana

Montana Democrats want sanctions against homophobic GOP Senator

“Sen. Manzella’s remarks are nothing short of offensive, dangerous & unacceptable,” the House Minority Leader & Senate Minority Leader wrote

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State Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton (Screenshot via Helena NBC News affiliate KTVH)

HELENA – The Montana Legislature’s minority Democratic Party leaders called on State Senate President Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell to sanction State Senator Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, for homophobic remarks she made during a rally supporting an anti-LGBTQ+ pastor in Clinton this past week.

Manzella told the crowd gathered in Clinton that members of the LGBTQ community like to “play the protected class card,” because queer couples in general have expressed that they’re scared to walk down the street holding hands in fear of possible violence against them for their sexuality, the Missoulian newspaper’s education reporter Skylar Rispens reported.

“I’ve got to tell you, I think those are normal consequences associated with the choices they made,” Manzella added.

The Montana Legislature’s Democratic Party leaders called for Manzella to be removed from her interim committee assignment. 

“Sen. Manzella’s remarks are nothing short of offensive, dangerous and unacceptable,” House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, D-Helena, and Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, wrote in a letter sent to Senate President Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell.

They continued, “LGBTQ Montanans have always been valued members of our communities, and they deserve the basic dignity and respect owed to everyone in our state — the most basic of which is to be able to live their lives without fear of violence.”

In an interview with a local blog Manzella claimed that the Missoulian newspaper’s education reporter Skylar Rispens had reported her remarks out of context. Helena NBC News affiliate KTVH reported Friday that Manzella said that she wasn’t condoning or encouraging violence against gay Montanans. “I did not say anything about violence or hate,” she said.

Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said Friday that if Manzella is not justifying violence against gays, she should retract the statement. “I think it’s a very damn thin line between condoning violence or inciting violence, against people you don’t agree with,” Sands said.

Bryce Bennett, a former state senator from Missoula, told KTVH Friday that gays shouldn’t have to accept that violence is a consequence “of just living your life.”

“I don’t think people like Theresa Manzella understand how hard it is to grow up as an LGBT person in a state like Montana, and the constant threats of violence, every day,” he said.

In a Twitter thread, the Missoulian newspaper’s education reporter Skylar Rispens disputed Manzella claims:

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