Missoula, Mont. – Two anti-gay attacks in Missoula Mont., home to the University of Montana, on Saturday, Nov. 3 shocked the community and lead to calls for the state’s hate crimes legislation to be revised.
In one of the attacks, a 22-year-old male UM student was assaulted on campus by four college-age men at 2:30 a.m.
The victim, whose name has not been released pending a police investigation, was pushed to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the head and chest while his attackers yelled anti-gay slurs, according to The Montana Kaimin, the university’s newspaper.
On the same night, a 29-year-old woman was attacked outside the Missoula Public Library by four women after a Montana Grizzly football game.
Jess Keith said she saw one of the women throwing up in the bathroom and offered to bring her some water.
“They looked me up and down,” she said. “Then one of the girls called me a dyke and told me to use the men’s room.”
When Keith left the restaurant for a downtown club, the women attacked her in the library’s parking lot.
“It was clear they were out looking for me,” Keith said. “I heard one of them say, ‘There she is,’ and then they piled out of the car and one of them punched me in the face.”
The women continued kicking Keith after she fell, and they stole her wallet before driving away.
Although Keith was not seriously injured in the attack, she said she is concerned that current Montana’s current hate crimes statute does not include sexual orientation.
"You know people are protected in terms of a hate crime in other places – but not here in Montana, and it doesn't make any sense why,” she told Montana’s News Station. "If people don't talk about it and get the word out – people don't think it happens in Missoula. They have all of my info … I mean are they going to attack again, are they going to try and retaliate? I feel like had I been a straight person, walking into that bathroom, offered some water, it probably would have been accepted."
Earlier this year, state Sen. Carol Juneau, D-Browning, sponsored a bill that would have added gender, disability and sexual orientation to Montana’s current hate crimes statue. The bill was tabled in committee after failing on a 7-5 vote.
Following the attacks, three dozen Missoula organizations including the UM LAMBDA Alliance, Forward Montana, Western Montana Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Missoula and the city’s police department organized a community rally on Nov. 26. The rally featured several speakers, including Missoula Mayor John Engenstate and Sen. Christine Kauffman, D-Helena, who has also proposed bills that would amend Montana law to include sexual orientation in hate crime laws. Speakers encouraged people at the rally to advocate for the passage of inclusive hate crime legislation.
“Everyone should step forward,” said County Commissioner Jean Curtiss, according to The Montana Kaimin. “Not just gays and lesbians. We are all neighbors.”