Better Know a Legislator: Rep. Bryce Bennett & Rep. Champ Edmunds

Last week I profiled two legislators who are diametrically opposed in their legislating philosophies, Rep. Edie McClafferty and Rep. Kris Hansen.

Today, I’ll look at the records of two Missoula legislators, Rep. Bryce Bennett (D) and Rep. Champ Edmunds (R).

Rep. Bryce Bennett, HD 92

Rep. Bryce BennettRep. Bryce Bennett will be serving his second term representing the people of the Rattlesnake area of Missoula and the Seely-Swan area. This session, Rep. Bennett will also serve as part of the leadership team as the House Democratic Caucus Chair.

When elected, Bryce became the first openly gay male elected to the Montana legislature, and because of his work in the legislature and in his regular job, he was named to Out Magazine’s Power List.

While Bryce has been a champion on LGBT issues in the state, he’s also spearheaded efforts to improve access to voting and led the charge against attempts to make it harder for Montanans, particularly students, veterans, Native Americans and seniors, to vote. He was responsible for adding to voter registration forms the option to opt in to subsequent absentee ballots.

When not serving the people of Montana, Bryce works as the Political Director at Forward Montana, a progressive organization based out of Missoula that seeks to get young people involved and make sure they have a voice in politics.

This session, Bryce will serve as the vice-chair of the State Admin committee, as well as serving on the Education and Rules committees.

You can follow Bryce on Twitter @BryceBennett.

Rep. Champ Edmunds, HD 100

Champ EdmundsWhile Rep. Champ Edmunds also comes to the legislature from Missoula, that’s where his similarities to Rep. Bryce Bennett end.

Edmunds has led many of the efforts to make voting harder for Montana students, seniors, veterans and Native Americans. Last session he introduced a bill that would end the ability to register and vote on the same day. If he were successful, he could have kept thousands of legally eligible Montanans from casting their votes.

Edmunds went even further when he accused University of Montana students of attempting to steal ballots to fraudulently cast votes.

Edmunds also extended his absurdity beyond the access to the ballot, when he was one of the few legislators to vote against honoring Montana’s Vietnam War veterans and he also voted against naming a stretch of road after a fallen State Trooper, because it was a “slippery slope” towards naming all roads after people.

In his non-legislative life, Edmunds works as a mortgage broker for Wells Fargo Bank in Missoula.

This session Edmunds will serve on the Rules Committee, as well as the Joint Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, and perhaps the most important committee Appropriations–the committee responsible for drafting the budget.

Truth In The Face Of Ignorance

peace love joy

peace love joy (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

Back in March, I wrote a piece about the Pope speaking to American bishops about the need for a culture war about marriage equality- and we got one. The Catholic Church was the largest single contributor (through the Bishop’s Conference, the Knights of Columbus and the National Organization For Marriage) against marriage equality initiatives in four states.

They lost.

Kind of makes you wonder what kind of help those millions of dollars would have given the poor if they hadn’t been so horribly directed against love.

Anyway, I ended that essay with with an open letter to LGBTIQ persons who live every day in the face of moral attack, physical violence and angry, ignorant, powerful people. We may have come a long way this year, but we’re not there yet.

So- if I may be so bold- I’d like to reprint the letter as a reminder that we need to find inspiration in ourselves. We need to remember that in the face of ignorance, we must continually speak the quiet, powerful truth of purpose and experience.

And I need to be reminded just as much as anybody else.

To my LGBTIQ family,

Love toward yourself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is important and necessary to insist on respect for your own right to life. I believe you were created to fill a very important place in this world- a place often dramatically misunderstood and opposed by people out of ignorance and fear.

It is crucial that you understand that you are not alone- there are millions of people who want to understand you and accept you and who will love you. You have the right to be understood- and you have the right to love and be loved in the ways you feel are most faithful to your created nature.

You have the right to live free from fear of attack and violence. You have the right to defend yourself against ignorant attacks on your dignity, happiness and self-respect. You have the right to fulfill your potential and to follow your heart and mind and soul and dreams to the best of your ability. Despite ignorance, despite persecution, despite fear and power and hate.

I believe that we are all beloved by the God of our understanding. I believe that we are valuable in being beloved. And that value is not diminished, even in the face of anger, fear and ignorance. Even in the face of religious belief which would deny us that value.

We are a courageous, wonderful people, with visions of love and acceptance and equality and happiness that I believe are deeply important to the future of the world.

I beg you, don’t let go of these visions- no matter how strongly others try to pull them away from you. They are your birthright.

They are the key hope to a world filled with peace.

Amen.

Pride Foundation Named One of Top Twelve Nonprofits

 

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Dear friends,

After a year that has included many celebrations at the local and national level, we have one more exciting headline to share.

Pride Foundation was just named one of the Top 12 high-impact nonprofits working in the field of local LGBTQ equality and support.
 This esteemed award from comes from Philanthropedia, a division of GuideStar. The rankings are based on in-depth surveys and conversations with hundreds of experts, including academics, foundation leaders, policy makers, and consultants.

Pride Foundation is honored to be recognized for such a prestigious award. We are also thankful to each of you—we reach our successes only with your support. As the holiday season continues, we are reminded of what matters most in our own lives and in the life of an organization like Pride Foundation. We are so grateful for the opportunity to champion for inspired students and innovative nonprofits all year long.

Here is a link to two stories 
of one scholar (Andrew Nichols) and one grantee (Gay Straight Alliance at Salish Kootenai College) that exemplify what can happen when you take the risk to do what you believe in and when you have a community of friends at your side. These stories also point to the reason Pride Foundation was honored with this award—together we are transforming the lives of people in the Northwest.

I understand that so many of you have contributed generously to many causes this year. Knowing that achieving full equality for all is important to you, I would ask that you consider making a personally significant year-end gift to Pride Foundation. To those of you who have already given generously, thank you. Your gift will be joined with the voices and momentum of the entire community and region. And you never know—you may profoundly change or even save a life.

Thank you.

With Pride,

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Kris Hermanns, Executive Director

Pride Foundation

 

 

Christmas Wishes

christmas paint

christmas paint (Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)

This past month has been a whirlwind of chaos. In fact, the year 2012 has been trying for many. With my head spinning from all of the news reports, online posts, shopping, socializing and more, I have been trying to find small ways in which to relax and gain perspective.

The first thing I did was to pray. I prayed for the families of those lost, the families of those who harmed others. For the President and his family. For the 80-something year old lady that would be working on Christmas. For my family, my friends, and myself. I prayed for clarity, wisdom, and a gentle heart. And then I saw the police show up at the neighbor’s house… yet again. So I prayed for the single mother who seems to have addiction challenges. and for the officers attending. and especially for her children.

And then I found something to do.

I sat and watched my beautiful aquarim for 10 minutes. I trimmed and watered my plants. I read a chapter of a good book. I told my partner that I love him, and spent a good long while reflecting on all of our good times, outweighing the challenges we have gone through this past year.

That’s when the dogs decided I was ignoring them, and so we went to play fetch and tug.

I self destruct when I dont slow my brain down and give thanks. My new year’s rsolution is not to get in shape, quit bad habits, promise myself things that may or may not come to be. Insead, I just wish to be at peace once in a while. Even for 5 minutes a day.

So, wherever you are and whomever you may be, I am grateful for you. If I could give each and everyone a gift this year, it would be 10 minutes of uninterrupted peace and joy. Take a minute this holiday season to sit back, find the beauty and smile a little.

Merry Christmas, and I wish you all a beautiful and inspiring 2013.

-Clint

Christmas Eve

The snow covers the sins of the world,
some say,
and the light slowly returns to the hemisphere I live in.

But the guns are not silenced,
the hungry not satisfied,
the angry not loved-
despite the peaceful heart,
the plentiful harvest,
the need to be understood-
despite the gospel of childhood that springs to life about now.

Maybe it is spite, after all, that is the enemy of all we love-
that stands in the way of love.

Despite

 

~D Gregory Smith

CDC: HIV Cases Decline for Black Women, Increase for Gay Men

Some disturbing news. From Reuters:

The CDC reported that the number of new cases of HIV among black women declined 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, while the incidence of HIV among young gay and bisexual men rose by 22 percent in the same time frame. The rate of HIV infections among black women remains 20 times higher than the number of new cases in white women, and HIV-infected black women account for 70 percent of HIV incidence among all women. Men who have sex with men comprised almost two-thirds of all new HIV infections in 2010.

Joseph Prejean, chief of the Behavioral and Clinical Surveillance Branch in CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, attributed the decline in new HIV cases among black women to HIV testing and the success of HIV

Drugs

Drugs (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

awareness campaigns. “Treatment advances” for AIDS may have caused young men to underestimate their risk and the health threat posed by HIV”, said Prejean. Although anti-retroviral treatment prolongs life, HIV-infected individuals can expect to take medicine for the rest of their lives, at an estimated lifetime cost of $400,000. (emphasis mine)

Young black men who have sex with men have the highest HIV incidence of any population group within the United States. An earlier CDC report stated that 26 percent of new HIV cases occurred among young people age 13 to 24. Half of HIV-infected young people do not know their HIV status, reported CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD.

Read the full article here.

Need A Last Minute Gift?

From our friends at The ONE Campaign:

 

Give the gift of music and hope this holiday season.

This World AIDS Day, (RED), ONE & Tiësto have teamed up to create a compilation album to help support HIV/AIDS programs. It topped the dance music charts in 33 countries and was the #2 album on iTunes over World AIDS Day weekend!

The album features an exclusive collaboration between Tiësto and Bono on U2’s “Pride” and some of the biggest names in dance music like Avicii, Calvin Harris and Diplo.

download DANCE (RED) Save Lives

Download DANCE (RED), SAVE LIVES.

This album is a great last-minute gift item! And the best part is all proceeds go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Make the dance music fan in your life happy and help save lives with just a single purchase.

Happy Holidays!

ONE