Former Felons Celebration Thursday

From the Facebook event page:

mtgayflagSenate Bill 107 is on its way to the Governor’s desk for his signature and last week’s historic vote deserves a celebration!

SB107 finally removes the unconstitutional language from Montana law that labels gays and lesbians felons, punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in jail. It was ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in 1997, but remained on the state’s law books because of homophobia and fear. Last week it passed the Montana House on a 64-35 vote, after passing the Montana Senate 38-11.

The passage of SB107 is a “decades in the making” event that deserves some celebrating!

Come enjoy heavy hors d’oeuvres, music and fun sponsored by the Montana Human Rights Network, Planned Parenthood of Montana, ACLU of Montana, Pride Foundation, and generous personal donations from Senators Tom Facey, Christine Kaufmann, Pat and Carol Williams, Diane Sands, Jamee Greer and Linda Gryczan.

What: Former Felons Celebration
When: Thursday, April 18th at 5:30pm
Where: Jorgenson’s Ballroom, 1714 11th Ave. in Helena
Cost: Free, although donations accepted!

** Governor Steve Bullock will sign Senate Bill 107 earlier that day in a special signing event in the Montana Capitol Building Rotunda at 12:30pm.
All supporters are welcome to attend!

And yes-I’ll be at that signing. No way I’d miss it…..

Wrong Side Of History

An excellent post by The Montana Cowgirl (reposted with her permission)

Montana lawmakers who have spent the entirety of their paltry careers voting against equality now find themselves on the wrong side of history.  In the wake of the upcoming supreme court decision on equal marriage, no one who reads a newspaper can come to any other conclusion.  Even Rush Limbaugh says marriage equality is inevitable.

The nutjob wing of Montana’s Republican Party  aren’t just wrong, they’re way out in right field, and soon to be there alone.   Montana is one of only four states that has a law on the books that makes being gay an imprisonable offense.  This fact alone is despicable, but when you consider what else the Montana Legislature has done you start to wonder if the Montana legislature isn’t among the most bigoted in America.

Consider this: During the past 21 legislative sessions least 32 bills have been introduced to make all Montanans equal under the law.  Some, like Sen. Facey’s SB 107 attempted to repeal the “deviate sexual conduct” law, other would have prevent discrimination in housing, or stopped the bullying of young people in schools. Many have been introduced by Sen. Christine Kaufmann, of Helena.

Not a single one of these bills has ever passed in the history of this state.

But it’s worse than that.  The Montana legislature isn’t content with blocking equality bills.  They’ve tried year after year to make things worse.
Montana LegislatureLook what they did in 1995, when Republican Senator Rick Holden added an amendment to a bill to require gay men and lesbians to register as felony sex offenders. Democrats tried to remove the amendment, but 32 of 50 Senators voted to keep it in.

It was only after twenty-four hours of scathing national press coverage from CNN that the Republicans were finally forced to take the sex offender amendment out. But not before Billings GOP Sen. Al Bishop decided to share his beliefs with the world.  He said consensual activity between people of the same sex was “a worse offense than rape.” (The bill was HB 214 and predates the online legislative search.)

Anyway, the Chick-Fil-A munching bunch was not happy to be denied a “felony sex offender registry” of gay citizens. A couple of days later anti-gay slurs and graffiti were “scrawled across the doors of the capitol, and a famous statue was defaced. With no sense of irony, and no mention of the anti-gay nature of the spray-painted slogans, Senators introduced a bill to make defacing the capitol a felony.”

And who could forget what happened ten years later in 2005, when the all-day kindergarten was opposed by religious right Repubs, who claimed bill was part of the “gay agenda.” “The purported evidence given by these groups was that gay activists were NOT at the hearing, proving it was part of the activists’ secret agenda.”

Public sentiment is now so firmly behind equality that the reaction to democratic politicians who announce their support at this late date ranges from “who isn’t” to “where were you earlier.”  The Montana Senate even voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

Now, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

Any day now the bill will be voted on in committee, and then on the Floor of the House.  No assumptions can be made about body which includes Verdell Jackson, Krayton Kearns, David Howard and Jerry O’Neil, so start contacting  the lawmakers in the House of Representatives, which you can do via this online form. FYI, you can always use the back button after submitting your message, which allows you to skip retyping all your info when you contact multiple legislators. Or you can cut and paste this list of House GOP legislators.

Conservatives were on the wrong side of history with women’s suffrage, they were on the wrong side of segregation.  Let’s see whose side they’re on now.

Better Know a Legislator: Sen. Christine Kaufmann and Sen. Jeff Essmann

In today’s edition of “Better Know a Legislator” I’ll profile one of my favorite legislators, Sen. Christine Kaufmann (D-Helena), as well as one of my least favorite, Sen. Jeff Essmann (R-Billings).

Sen. Christine Kaufmann, SD 41

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Sen. Christine Kaufmann, is one of the few unabashed progressive champions in the Montana legislature. She constantly impresses me with her ability to think strategically, while maintaining her commitment to her values.

This year she’ll be beginning her second session representing Helena in the Senate. She previously also served in the Montana House. She is one of the first (and only current) openly gay women serving in the Montana legislature. I personally had hoped she would serve in leadership in the Senate, but unfortunately she did not seek one of these positions. Hopefully in 2015 she will seek a leadership positionSen. Kaufmann is arguably the progressive champion in the Montana Senate, a quick examination of her bill draft requests will show why. This year she is seeking to create an earned income tax credit, to revise the administration of oil and gas taxes , to increase the power of the state’s top political cop and to revise the so-called “castle doctrine” law. These are tough fights, and many of them are fights that (with the current makeup of the legislature) will not succeed. But Sen. Kaufmann understands the importance of beginning a discussion on these issues, because hopefully, that discussion will move political discourse in a more progressive direction.

When not serving as a legislator, Sen. Kaufmann works in the State Auditor’s office on health care issues for Montanans. She previously worked at (and was a founder of) the Montana Human Rights Network.

Sen. Jeff Essmann, SD 28

Sen. Jeff Essmann

I don’t want to take personal shots at legislators in these profiles, but I have to say Sen. Jeff Essmann is one of the most detestable people to ever be elected to office in Montana.

Essmann will serve as the Senate President in 2013–a position he acquired after staging a coup against the former Senate president Jim Peterson (R-Buffalo). Essmann and his fellow tea party extremists claimed that they were staging the coup because Peterson embarrassed them with his “Code of the West” bill from 2011. It’s worth noting that not only did Essmann vote for the Code of the West bill, but he also supported even more embarrassing bills that sought to legalize spear hunting, would give local sheriffs control over international terrorism investigations in their communities and he opposed a measure to remove the  unconstitutional law that criminalizes LGBT people in the state of Montana.

During his 2011 session, Essmann was also one of the leaders in the efforts to repeal the voter approved law allowing the use of medical cannabis in Montana. Montanafesto has covered his shady efforts on this front.

Essmann got his start in the Senate after Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger became part of Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s administration. He promptly trashed Bohlinger’s bipartisan record in that seat in order to become a partisan ideologue.

Essmann announced that he would run for governor in 2012. But after holding a bizarre conference call announcing his campaign, Essmann dropped out just a few weeks later, prompting some to suspect a scandal in his past.

Essmann will surely run an extreme Senate that will seek conflict over common ground when dealing with Governor-elect Bullock.

Turman Larison Gallery to Host Pride Foundation Benefit

 Helena Art Party to Raise Money for Grants and Scholarships in Montana

 

The Turman Larison Contemporary Art Gallery in downtown Helena will host a fundraiser for Pride Foundation’s grants and scholarships on Thursday, Aug. 9, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event is free to attend, but donations are encouraged. Co-hosts include: Clark &Toni Broadbent, Attorney General Candidate Pam Bucy, Linda Carlson and David Hunter, Tom and Lisa Cordingley, Pam Dale, Clayton Elliott, Laura Fix,Ginny Furshong, Jamee Greer, Cindy Lewis, Pat Kemp and Sen. Christine Kaufmann, Terry Kendrick, Wendy and Sarah Nicolai, Linda Reed, Mike Wessler and Bobbie Zenker.

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. A board of 12 volunteers, including Helena residents Ginny Furshong, Pat Kemp, Mike Wessler and Bobbie Zenker, helps lead the organization’s efforts. 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 friendlier 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.”

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.

Montana Pride 2012: It’s Not Just A Party

It’s a time for determined activism and empowerment.

This year, we’ve invited every elected official and candidate from across Montana to meet their LGBT and allied constituents at Montana Pride.

We’ve made Out Legislators Diane Sands, Christine Kaufmann, Bryce Bennett and Montana Human Rights Network organizer/lobbyist Jamee Greer our Grand Marshals. And they will be sharing their stories with Montana Public Radio’s Brian Kahn in the Bozeman Public Library after speaking at the Equality Rally on the Library Front Lawn. A Rally which will feature Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex speakers and performers.

Montana Women Vote will be registering voters during the weekend.

And we have an amazing array of workshops at the MSU SUB on Saturday starting at 3pm 

PFLAG Presents: Inclusive Language: Helping families and friends avoid hoof-in-mouth disease. How to talk about/to our LGBT loved ones and A chapter can be the first ray of sunshine in small communities and be an umbrella to connect efforts in others. Presented by Kathy Reim, PFLAG Pacific Northwest Regional Director and Cesar Hernandez, PFLAG Western Field & Policy Manager

Vagina Facebook: How to friend, things to like, status updates, and blocking creepers for your lady parts. If our vaginas had a grasp on social marketing they would pick better playmates, know all the best products, keep honest medical tabs, and hide from those unwanted pests like herpes. This workshop will use the principles of Facebook to outline 20 new lessons on vulva wellness and user sexuality. Log-on and learn.   Open session for women with doctor of human sexuality and clinical sexologist, Lindsey Doe

It’s Not Your Story Until You Tell It. Author Bobbie Zenker will present a workshop on coming out and telling your story & why it is important. She will share her experiences in writing her memoir, TransMontana, followed by a brief reading. Q&A to follow.

Talking to Churches and Faith Leaders- How Do We Start? Evangelical Christian and LGBT ally Kathy Baldock will offer some guidance and understanding about creating a conversation with Christian faith leaders. She will share her experiences in changing hearts and minds about LGBT persons in churches and faith communities. She will also address the topic of creating “open and affirming” churches.

Yeah, it’s a party, but it’s also a time to be empowered.

Because together, we’re powerful.

And it’s gonna be hard to ignore us in Montana after next weekend….

MONTANA PRIDE 2012: DETAILS!

For the second year, Bozeman will be hosting the 2012 Montana Pride Celebration on the weekend of June 15-17. Montana Pride is a statewide celebration of diversity and equality, which attracted thousands to Bozeman in 2011 for a weekend packed-full of community fun, education and celebrating diversity. The Pride Celebration is an annual event implemented and developed by the Montana Pride Network, a 501(c)3 non-profit volunteer organization with board members from across the state.

The Pride Celebration gathers local, state-wide and regional friends of the LGBTQ Community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Intersex, Queer and Questioning) as well as the Native American Two-Spirit Society.

For 2012 Pride, Bozeman has expanded their venues and weekend activities to accommodate even greater participation and involvement. Venues include the Ballrooms at Montana State University, various business locations in Downtown Bozeman, The Bozeman Public Library and more. Pride Weekend will include a schedule of dynamic entertainment from all around the mountain west including our Friday night concert with Jessie and the Toy Boys, a Saturday morning Pride Parade on Main Street, thoughtful weekend workshops, panel discussions, music by Katie Goodman of Broad Comedy on Saturday Night, with local and regional drag talent both evenings, hosted parties and evening dances. The Bozeman planning committee continues to welcome friends of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate Pride, honesty and equality with us.

Our highly-attended Pride Parade on Main Street, Saturday morning June 16th is open for all ages to attend and/or participate, as it will be a community and family-oriented event with Grand Marshals from Montana’s own Legislature, Diane Sands, Christine Kaufmann, Bryce Bennett and from the Montana Human Rights Network, Jamee Greer. The Pride Parade will begin at West Main Street and South 3rd Ave and will end at the Bozeman Public Library Lawn, with an Equality Rally and Festival following for the whole family. Parade registration forms are available on our website, and must be completed in advance for approval.

We’re excited to have featured members of our community openly participating during Pride, which includes Electra Sexton and various Drag Performers from Montana, Christian evangelist Kathy Baldock will be presenting a vision of LGBTQ-inclusive Christianity, Roberta Zenker will be sharing excerpts and stories from her recently-published memoir, Trans-Montana and a number of talented local DJ’s will be keeping the rhythm primed at our evening dances.

Free HIV Testing will be available throughout the weekend.

Weekend General Admission passes and VIP packages are for sale online at www.montanapride.org, seating at certain weekend events will be limited so early-ticket purchases are greatly encouraged. Youth Activities for ages 15-18 have been scheduled along with our regularly planned 18+ mature audience events Friday& Saturday night, with childcare also being available during our day time activities.

In 2011 regional business and organizational sponsorships were a huge aspect of our success and gave us the ability to grant over $10K back into Montana’s growing momentum for quality and diversity. For 2012, we’d like to welcome back the support not only of our vibrant community, but also the businesses and organizations, big and small, that daily contribute so much to making Montana a beautiful place to live. Please visit our website if you or someone you know is interested in sponsoring this year’s event. The Montana Pride website also has lists of local hotels for weekend-rates, Volunteer Opportunities, and resources for our Saturday Festival.

So please save the date, mark your calendars, and JOIN us for another ground-swelling year of celebrating Pride, honesty and the pursuit of happiness in Montana.

See you there!