For the second time this week a prominent Montana conservative political figure apologized for posting highly-offensive remarks against homosexuals on Facebook.
On Wednesday it was Red Lodge GOP senate candidate Jason Priest.
The latest offender is Big Sky Tea Party Association president Tim Ravndal.
The Montana Human Rights Network demanded that the Big Sky Tea Party Association remove Ravndal in light of the post.
“I would like to know if Mr. Ravndal thinks that gay people are entitled to the same safety, security, and protections as everyone else, because his comments seem to suggest he thinks it’s okay to hurt or even kill members of the LGBT community,” said Kim Abbott, an MHRN organizer.
Ravndal, a prominent figure in the state’s tea party movement and “director of grassroots coalitions” for former GOP state Rep. John Sinrud’s group Western Tradition Partnership, made the comment on July 23 in regards to an article in the Billings Gazette about an ACLU lawsuit over rights for same-sex couples.
The Facebook comment has since been removed, but the Tribune has obtained photo documenting the exchange and this is how it read:
Tim Ravndal: “Marriage is between a man and a woman period! By giving rights to those otherwise would be a violation of the constitution and my own rights”
Kieth Baker: “How dare you exercise your First Amendment Rights?”
Dennis Scranton: “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
Tim Ravndal: “@Kieth, OOPS I forgot this aint(sic) America no more! @ Dennis, Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
Dennis Scranton: “Should be able to get info Gazette archives. Maybe even an illustration. Go back a bit over ten years.”
(Here’s a link to a blog post that has the screen shot.)
The exchange between Ravndal and Facebook user Dennis Scranton references the 1998 slaying of 21-year-old University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was brutally beaten and tied to a fence post where he was left to die. During the trail witnesses testified that Shepard was targeted because he was gay.
“Mr. Ravndal’s comments are outrageous. He is a public figure, in the public sphere condoning and making light of violence against gay people. It’s actually pretty frightening,” Abbott said.
Ravndal apologized for the comment on Friday saying he “never made the connection” to Shepard’s murder until after national bloggers picked up on it and his phone started ringing earlier this week.
“I wasn’t even thinking about the tragedy that happened in Wyoming,” Ravndal said in an interview with the Tribune Friday. “I made a mistake and I apologize to anyone I offended. I do not condone violence to any human being.”
Ravndal said his Facebook page is personal and has nothing to do with the Big Sky Tea Party Association. Ravndal also said he has “disassociated” from Scranton.
I called Scranton at his Miles City home yesterday. Scranton’s response when I asked him about the Facebook comment was, well…also inappropriate to print in family newspaper. But since this is the web and nobody reads this blog anyway, here it is for your reading enjoyment:
JSA: Is this Dennis?
JSA: Dennis, I’d like to talk to you about a recent comment on Facebook…
Scranton: “You know what? You know what? I don’t give a fat f*** whether you want a comment or not. So f*** you!”
(Laughter in background…)
JSA: So does that mean you you have no comment?