Success! MT Republicans Drop Anti Gay Platform Plank

Montana Republican Party

Montana Republican Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…and they did it while thousands were celebrating Montana Gay Pride in Bozeman. From Talking Points Memo:

Montana’s Republican Party has dropped a longtime plank in its platform demanding that the state recognize a law banning homosexual activity.

The state GOP had officially declared that “We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal,” language that was initially included in 1997 after a state court struck down an existing ban on gay sex. All such state laws were invalidated in 2003 in the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas.

The issue was dropped from the “crime” section of the platform over the weekend at the Republican state convention after the party’s crime subcommittee decided to remove it.

“The folks on the crime committee told me they had a good debate about it,” he said. “I wasn’t there myself.”

But it wasn’t entirely clear why the plank was removed. At least some Republican legislators had openly decried its inclusion as an embarrassment. But Montana GOP Executive Director Bowen Greenwood told TPM that his only direction to party committee chairs was to gut extraneous items from the platform in order to make it shorter and more accessible.

Greenwood declined to offer any opinion on the move.

“I run a servant office,” he said. “I work for Republican officeholders and I represent the platform they choose. I don’t tell them what it ought to be.”

State Rep. Keith Regier (R), chairman of the state party crime committee, did not immediately return a request for comment.

I’ve been harping on this for years now, so whatever the reason, begrudgingly or otherwise, I’ll take it.

Why You Should Attend A Rural Pride Event This Year

A rerun of last year’s column…

New York Pride?

San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco, Boston, Portland, Kansas City, Dallas, L.A., Denver, Philly?
Double check.

Bisbee, Anchorage, Bozeman, Wichita, Boise, Flagstaff?
Well, uh….

I know, not exactly the top of the list for most of you. Many of us actively fled rural life to get to urban safety. I get that- I was one of them. For a while, anyway. But I want you to consider going to a gay pride event in an out-of the-way place this summer.

Click for schedule!

Why? Because we need you.

LGBT people live in rural America. We work here, go to school, own property, pay taxes, raise families, attend churches, shop and donate to charity. We don’t have a lot of gay bars, LGBT sports clubs, drag shows and neighborhoods where we can hold hands with our partners. Nonetheless, we live here. We love here. We have friends and families here.

Sometimes we do it under a great deal of stress.

I work with a lot of LGBT persons who have really good reasons for living in rural America. We don’t get a lot of support. Far too often, the strongest reason to leave is to find a greater sense of community. Sometimes, that is the only reason- the driving reason, that makes them pack up the car and head to Denver or Seattle or Portland.

Creating community in a small town isn’t always easy. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome- fear, shame, stigma- all the old tapes. We don’t have a large pool of organizers, and often the same people are the ones organizing every event. Burnout is common. Sometimes we just need some encouragement.

And that’s where you come in.

The fight for LGBT Equality is not going to be won in the cities. It’s already mostly won there. It’s going to be won in small-town America, where people need to see gay people as human, normal and neighbors- not just some characters on television. It’s going to be won when the lady who runs the local Holiday Inn meets real-live lesbians and finds them to be just like any other guests. When the casual onlooker comes to the parade to see “freaks” and walks away disappointed, when he sees families and friends laughing and cheering. When a bi kid is accepted and loved instead of encouraged to “get off the fence”. When locals see their gay neighbors in the light of day, paying our own way, as deserving of love, respect and commitment as anyone else. When drag shows and AIDS charity events are just as normal and accepted as karaoke, rodeo and the county fair. When  our rural and small-town legislators, see us simply as citizens with the same rights as every other constituent. When kids don’t say “gay” as an epithet of scorn and derision.

When we are seen as part of a larger community. That’s when full equality will happen.

We need your encouragement to continue the struggle for that equality. It can be pretty lonely out here, sometimes. And I’ve come to believe that, as important as the work in the cities is, those who work to improve the lives of LGBT persons in rural America are the real heroes. The drag queens in Butte or Bisby may not be as glamorous as the Key West queens, but they’re certainly just as brave- braver even.  The HIV activist in Anchorage has just as many concerns as the activist in Atlanta. We want to know you have our backs when we’re working to educate legislators and local politicians and school boards and businesses. We want to know that it’s okay to stay here, even when it’s hard.

We need you.

So look up a rural Pride event this summer. Go to it. Let us know you support us. Clap at the little parade, dance in a barn, make out with a hot cowboy, cowgirl and/or farmer, encourage a teen, hug a drag queen, listen to an elder, give money to a PFLAG chapter. Just go- we need you.

Because you need us, too.

Bozeman Letter To The Editor: Gays, “Just live the lifestyle you’ve chosen and keep quiet.”

From yesterday’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle comes the following letter. I thought it would be online today, but apparently it is not. I’ve transcribed it for your convenience.

To the Montana Gay Pride group and Tom Marsh, director:

A few questions:

Why do you have to openly march on the streets of Bozeman? Not all people flaunt their lifestyles before the public. Can’t you quietly live your lives the way we do? Just live the lifestyle you’ve chosen and keep quiet. If everyone with grievances to air acted like your group, our news media would be very busy.

Why were you unhappy before you came out? Why does it please you that Bozeman officials condone your actions? Can’t you live among us and remain silent and happy?

Alice Cooper

I don’t know where to begin. But I will say, Tom Marsh is a dear friend- and I don’t respond well when people personally attack my friends.
So, I’ve taken more than a day to formulate a few salient points in a letter:

Dear Alice,

You asked a lot of questions in your letter to the editor in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on October 21st, 2011. I would like to address them

People do not choose their sexual orientation. They acknowledge it. It is not a mental or physical illness to identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered or Intersex. Both the American Psychological Association and The American Medical Association agree with me- and they have for decades. Science is with me on this. Firmly.

We openly march, because we have to. Somewhere there is a child who doesn’t understand that people don’t choose their sexual orientation- and that child may grow up miserable, tortured and conflicted. And, according to statistics, will probably think about and attempt to take their lives as a result of that conflict and torture. I did. We march so that people will see that it is a part of the human condition to be LGBT. We are your neighbors, members of your family, in every occupation and human situation you can think of. We’re here, and it’s okay to be. And we march because there are still people who think it’s okay to hate us. We march so that maybe those people will realize that we are not monsters. We are human beings. And maybe there will be less children who think that God hates them, or that they’re less than other children simply because they are LGBT. If so, then one little annual parade is a small thing….

We would love to live our lives quietly- but there are laws (and lack thereof) and attitudes that prevent that. We don’t always feel safe. We aren’t always treated with dignity and respect. We don’t have equal protection under the law. Believe you me, I would love nothing more than to live my life quietly- and I will- when I am treated like every other person in this country and this state- because it’s hard to live a normal life when there are people just like me who are threatened with violence all over this country. It’s hard to live a happy life when you’re afraid.

If you want to know why we were unhappy before we came out, it’s pretty simple: because we were lying. Lying makes people unhappy. Stopping the lie is cause for celebration. And so we march and dance and celebrate being honest together.

And yes, it pleases us that Bozeman officials recognize the struggle to live a normal life in the face of being labelled a freak by a significant part of society. It pleases us to not be seen as freaks. Because we’re not. We’re just human beings who love and work and struggle just like you, Alice. Human beings of faith, spirit and purpose. Human beings with families and pets and houses and churches and favorite restaurants.

I also wonder if, in your letter, you substituted the word “Christian” or “Irish” or “Black” or “Woman” or “Immigrant”  for the word “Gay”, would you feel the same?

We do live among you. We do. And we’re not going to do it silently. That’s not how a democracy works. I live in The United States of America, and I have a right to free speech- as do you. Silence is not an option. Because you have written the above letter to a public newspaper, I’m sure you understand.

If you have any other questions, I will be happy to answer them as openly and honestly as I can.


D Gregory Smith, stl, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Write your own Letter to the Editor of The Bozeman Daily chronicle here. 

Update: Online version of the letter (with a place to comment) here.



“You Are Loved”

I’ve written about the importance of Rural Pride Celebrations before- but if you want to see it firsthand, or if you ever wondered what the 2011 Montana Pride Celebration was like- well wonder no more.

Wet Paint Studios beautifully chronicled the event with this amazing piece of film:

From the Wet Paint Studios’ description:

“You Are Loved” is a documentary chronicling Montana Pride- celebrating the diversity of all walks of life.

The documentary explores what it means to be an LGBTQI in Montana, a rural state of not even a million people. The response from the community in Bozeman, MT was overwhelming, and without it, this documentary would not be possible. Enjoy the show!

Charlotte Pride and “God Has A Better Way”- Competing Messages

From CanyonWalker Connections:

On Saturday, August 27, two events are planned in Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Gay Pride and “God Has a Better Way”.

The goals of Charlotte Gay Pride are to:

  • Celebrate LGBT families from the Charlotte area
  • Provide LGBT individuals with a place to celebrate without harassment
  • Advance LGBT rights and visibility in the Charlotte community
  • Enpower individuals to be themselves in a relaxed and accepting environment

Also planned for August 27th is “God Has a Better Way” (GHABW)  a joint effort of the Charlotte based Coalition of Conscience  and The Speak Truth Project. The goals of GHABW are to:

  • Gather hundreds of “worshipers, intercessors, musicians, soul-winners, walkers, talkers and believers of every age, color and size to stand together”
  • To “walk through or surround the (Charlotte Gay Pride) event to evangelize, sing, pray, hand out water and reach out with love to those in attendance while resisting the (gay) agenda.”
  • And, they “expect this to be a challenging day as sexual immorality, wickedness, and rejection will abound, nevertheless, into the battle (they) must go-and (they) have a plan.”
More on the story here.

The San Diego Experience

It’s been great so far. I’ve experienced gorgeous weather, beautiful people- both inside and out, spent time with two mommies and their baby, quality time with Ken, a gay dog show with Greg Louganis, Pride Parade with a VIP wristband on (free liquids and shade), margaritas and parties and beach and good food and breakfast with Gregory Hinton….

Life can only get better. That’s a rule.

That includes making it better by getting rid of that hate-filled Montana GOP platform plank.

I may be on vacation, but rest assured, I’ve not forgotten. And I’m going to make sure you don’t either.