- Join Pride Foundation Scholars At Special Reception (dgsmith.org)
- Two UM students awarded prestigious scholarships (missoulian.com)
On Thursday, April 25th from 5:00pm-6:00pm, Open Aid Alliance is offering the first of three community seminars on hepatitis C. The first presentation will feature Dr. Rebecca Kinney. Dr. Kinney completed medical school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and did her residency at Family Medicine Residency of Idaho in Boise. She is a family physician specializing in infectious diseases, with specific expertise in hepatitis C. This presentation will provide an overview of hepatitis C infection, transmission, and recommendations for testing. All three seminars are free and open to the public.
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
MCT Center for the Performing Arts (use the Main Street entrance)
For more information, call Open Aid Alliance at 406.543.4770 or email email@example.com
Please join us for this opportunity to expand your knowledge of hepatitis C
Several Montana cities are planning Martin Luther King Day celebrations with support from Pride Foundation’s sponsorship program.
In Missoula, the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) helps facilitate the community planning committee that has put on the January 21st event for years. This year, festivities begin with a rally at 5 p.m. at Caras Park with live drumming by Ben Coral. The rally will conclude with a candle-lit march for racial justice to the St. Paul Lutheran Church (202 Brooks St.) by 6 p.m. Montana Human Rights Network organizer Jamee Greer will deliver the keynote address this year, followed by dancing by the St. Ignatius Dance Troupe from the Flathead Indian Reservation.
In Helena, the Montana Human Rights Network will host their annual Lobby Day at the Capitol, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Email Jamee Greer at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up by this Friday. After a day of talking with legislators, you’ll deserve some fun! Head over to the Myrna Loy Center to reflect on the passage of the Helena Non-Discrimination Ordinance and discuss what still needs to be done to achieve King’s dream in the Queen City. The celebration will include food, beverages, conversation, and several short films with a social justice theme. The films start at 4 p.m., with the celebration to follow at 5:30. Montana Human Rights Network is a longtime grantee of Pride Foundation.
Not in Our Town-Billings will play a major role in their community’s multi-day celebration with sponsorship support from Pride Foundation, Yellowstone AIDS Project, Grace United Methodist Church, Montana State University-Billings, and current board chair and Pride Foundation volunteer Eran Thompson.
Events in Billings kick off Wednesday, January 16, with the Bahai Community’s free presentation titled, “The Purpose of Justice: Unity” at the Doll Museum, located at 3206 6th Ave. North.
On Friday, January 18, the Bahai faith and Not in Our Town come together to host indigenous performer Kevin Locke (Tokeya Inajin in Lakota), internationally known for his Northern Plains flute playing, traditional storytelling, visionary hoop dancing, and cultural knowledge. The free performance is at 7:00 PM and the location is TBD. Call 406-839-6734 for details.
On Saturday, January 19, is the 3rd Annual “I Am Billings” Community Photo. Join diverse friends, family, and neighbors of every race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the spirit of the Martin Luther King holiday. Participants should meet at 1 p.m. at the Pioneer Park near the northeast tennis courts.
“The real reason we do the MLK community photo is because we want to give folks a chance to come together and enjoy being a community,” Thompson explained. “It is an opportunity to come with neighbors, family friends, and strangers. It doesn’t matter their color, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity – we are all together to say we are a part of this community.”
After you’ve warmed up from the photo, head over to the Billings Food Bank at 2112 4thAve. North at 6 p.m. for the annual Martin Luther King soul food dinner and fundraiser hosted by the Black Heritage Foundation. Tickets are $10. Call Melvin Terry at 690-3644 or email email@example.com for tickets or more information.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, the celebration continues in Billings with an interfaith service at 3 p.m. at First United Congregational Church, 310 North 27th Street. Not in Our Town’s own Eran Thompson will deliver a Martin Luther King Jr. sermon apropos to the theme, and there will be readings and music from the many faiths.
The MSU-Billings campus ushers in the actual holiday, Jan. 21, with a bell-ringing ceremony at 9:45 a.m., at the corner of Rimrock and Normal Aves. Afterward, there will be a march to the Student Union building followed by speakers and entertainment.
More candlelight vigil and marching fun will ensue at 6:00 PM on the Yellowstone County Courthouse lawn, 217 North 27th. After a short program, this Black Heritage Foundation group moves to the Lincoln Center, 415 North 30th, for the 7:00 PM celebration, featuring a keynote by civil rights leader Dr. Charles McDew.
Caitlin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Montana. Email Caitlin.
Paul Vestal received a scholarship from Pride Foundation last year to help him pursue a career as an attorney. His passion for civil rights issues made him a standout in the highly competitive process. And Paul is already giving back to the community who supported him by drafting a bill to allow civil unions for same-sex couples in Montana. The bill will be introduced during the upcoming Legislature in Helena.
A third year law student at the University of Montana, Paul enrolled in a legislative drafting class last fall. It was taught by David Aronofsky, former University of Montana legal counsel, Mike Halligan, former legislator turned director of the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation, and John Bennion, who serves as counsel to the Montana Chamber of Commerce.
“I went in knowing what I wanted to do,” Paul said. “I decided to go the civil unions route due to our constitutional ban on marriage equality for same sex couples. Even though it may die, I feel something like this should be presented every session. If we are silent, nothing will happen.”
Paul’s good friend and Pride Foundation supporter, Representative Ellie Hill (D-Missoula), is co-sponsoring the bill, along with Pride Foundation Leadership Action Team member and first openly gay man to serve in the Legislature, Representative Bryce Bennett (D-Missoula).
“Equal access to civil unions was not pursued last legislative session, and it probably would not have been introduced this upcoming session, if not for the courage and academic fortitude of Pride Foundation scholar and Montana law student, Paul Vestal,” Hill said.
The Montana Legislature hasn’t seen a civil union bill come up since 2009. Paul is hopeful the “conservative angle” he tried to take in crafting the bill will help give this version a longer life than past efforts.
“It’s not to amend the marriage code,” he explained. “My rationale going into this was to create a new chapter rather than even touching marriage. I tried to stay away from associating it with marriage as much as possible. There’s a bigger tent for folks who support the rights associated with marriage but don’t want to change marriage.”
While this tactic may not please all activists in the movement, Paul says it’s not the liberals and the LGBTQ community that need convincing, it’s the conservatives.
“When we go at it as human rights or gay rights, it falls on deaf ears,” he said. “Opponents of equality know all the arguments at this point. I tried to address how the bill will be aligned with some of their own libertarian beliefs, such as keeping government out of people’s lives, the need for equal property rights, that you can transfer your property to your person. Equal protection is still a big part of it.”
Paul said he also hopes that legislators will see that the writing is on the wall in terms of marriage equality. Passing this bill could pre-empt future challenges, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court decides the so-called Defense of Marriage of Act (DOMA) or Proposition 8 court cases in ways that favor equal marriage rights. For example, Paul wonders what will happen when same sex couples in Missoula drive three hours to Spokane, Washington to get a marriage license. What will that mean for jointly owned property and paying taxes in Montana?
“I would ask [opponents], do you want to be like New Jersey and have equality come down from the court, or do you want to draft a Montana solution that would actually strengthen the ban more because it would give equal access without changing marriage.”
Paul will graduate this spring and hopes to stay in Missoula, where he will continue to be involved in nonprofits and politics, regardless of the type of law he decides to practice. He also is considering working as a lobbyist.
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 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
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.
Pride Foundation aims to “make waves” with the first-ever Flathead Lake Equality Cruise on Sunday, Aug. 12, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The boat will depart KwaTaqNuk Best Western Resort at 4 p.m. sharp, so guests are encouraged to arrive by 3:45. Tickets are $45 for individuals and $80 per couple and can be purchased online at www.pridefoundation.eventbrite.com.
Seattle-based Pride Foundation has made a big splash in Montana since hiring on-the-ground staff in 2011, sextupling the number of active donors in less than two years. Pride Foundation has increased from $19,000 to nearly $50,000 the amount of grants and scholarships given out in the state over the past year.
According to Regional Development Organizer Caitlin Copple, who is also the first openly gay member of the Missoula City Council, Montana is part of a larger national trend toward greater acceptance of people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
“From the city ordinances protecting the community from non-discrimination to the increase in the number of high school Gay-Straight Alliances around the state to the changes in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms, Montana is rapidly becoming a more friendly place for gays and lesbians,” Copple said. “Most importantly, more of our heterosexual family, friends, and colleagues are also ‘coming out’ as supporters of full equality in our state.”
Indeed, co-hosts for the upcoming cruise include Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) and Dr. Tyler Smith of Missoula, Cathy and Ned Cooney of Bigfork, Mary Stranahan of Arlee, and Beth Frazee, Paul Vestal, and Bryony Schwan, all of Missoula.
Special thanks to event sponsors KwaTaqNuk Resort, Fidelity Title of Lake County, Mamalode Magazine, MissoulaEvents.net, Salish Kootenai College, S&K Technologies, Ronan Telephone Company, Blackfoot Telecommunications, and Gateway to Vitality. If you would like to sponsor or co-host, please contact Caitlin@pridefoundation.org.
Founded in 1985, Pride Foundation is dedicated to inspiring a culture of generosity to connect and strengthen organizations, leaders, and students who are creating LGBTQ equality across the Northwest states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. To learn more, visit www.pridefoundation.org or email Caitlin@pridefoundation.org.
HIV infection has increased unexpectedly in Missoula County- 12 new cases in five months- almost half the number of all reported cases in Montana last year.
“We tend to see small numbers of new cases every year, but to have this many new cases – at this count 12 – documented in a five-month period is an unusually high number,” Missoula City-County Health Department Director Ellen Leahy said on Wednesday. “Twelve cases in one county in five months is an outbreak.”
HIV causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS, a debilitating and sometimes fatal disease. It is spread by unprotected sexual contact or infected blood transfer, such as sharing infected hypodermic needles. Leahy said all the Missoula cases appeared to stem from sexual activity.
The announcement was made after consulting with many community groups, including Partnership Health Center, the Montana Gay Men’s Task Force and the Open Aid Alliance. Open Aid director Christa Weathers said the decision to publicize the outbreak was a hard one, because health officials depend on people self-reporting their condition to track the disease’s spread.
“It’s hard to issue a public health risk without creating alarm, or without pointing fingers at any group of people,” Weathers said. “It’s a great opportunity to remind people this is a risk and why testing is so important. But we don’t want to discourage anyone who may know they may need to get tested, but they’re afraid to come in and then this hits the media and they’re gone.”
So far, all the confirmed cases are adult males. But Leahy warned that women who don’t consider themselves members of a high-risk group for HIV infection have also been exposed.
“It’s sexually spread, but it’s time to remind ourselves – you really cannot know if you’re infected unless you’ve been tested,” Leahy said. “We recommend health clinics regularly offer HIV testing to sexually active patients. Rather than presume someone is in a risk group, it’s risk behavior, not membership in any group, that they need to think about.”
Several of my sources say the newly-infected persons are young men who simply didn’t practice safe sex, thinking “It’s Montana- I’m not at risk”. These men, mostly in their twenties, I’m told, will now have a lifetime of medication, stigma and health issues to deal with. It saddens me.
Today is a good day to be tested. For a list of Montana free Rapid HIV Testing sites, click here.
If you’re in Bozeman, call AIDS Outreach 406-451-5718 (the number in the link above is incorrect) or go to AIDSOutreachMT.org
Shane Vannatta, a Missoula lawyer specializing in Business Law was inducted as the President of the Montana State Bar Association on September 15th. Besides being an ambitious man with a heart for community service and pro bono work, Shane is also a native Montanan (Bainville) and an openly gay man.
“I’m really looking forward to doing good things,” Vannatta said.
Vannatta graduated from Bainville High School and attended the University of Montana, graduating with a degree in political science in 1990. He graduated from The University of Montana Law School in 1993, with honors. He has been with the firm of Worden Thane since that time.
Vannatta recently finished a seven-year term as chair of the Western Montana Bar Association pro bono program and was instrumental in the organization of the program.
Full disclosure: I’ve known Shane and his partner for years- they’ve been together nearly sixteen- and it couldn’t happen to a better guy. And there’s something important about this: Shane’s election is one more reason LGBTQ kids don’t have to leave Montana to lead safe and successful lives.
Congratulations, Shane and Jon -and congratulations, Montana!