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…..

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!

The Joke (on us) Has (at least for now) Ended.

Yes, folks, the circus that was the 62nd Legislature of the State of Montana has been officially closed.

It was one of the most contentious sessions in memory- and one of the most publicized. Sadly, for Republicans, it was mostly at their expense. Republican lawmakers introduced the most ridiculed and bigoted legislation in Montana history- giving the state its fair share of national media attention. Only some of it good.

Mostly it was about third-rate candidates such as Billy Bob Wagner, who introduced legislation to reinstate the gold standard, and was laughed at nationally on Anderson Cooper 360 for his ridiculous “birther” bill (but mostly for his stupidity). Then there was Kris Hansen, a “secret lesbian” who introduced one of the most pro-discrimination legislative actions to ever hit the aisles of the Capitol. Mary Cheney, anyone? And the Montana GOP, for no good reason other than to perpetuate hate and shame, voted to keep The Gays illegal- and we heard some of the most disgusting testimony to ever foul a Capitol microphone.

And don’t forget (as if I could) Janna Taylor’s ridiculous, ignorant and dangerous comments about HIV in the Montana prison system. In my opinion, the defining moment of the session. And that is a short list of all the craziness perpetuated at the time and expense of the people of Montana-a better list is here.

But I want to take a minute to thank the legislators who spent a great deal of their time and energy standing up for the rights of Montanans. Diane Sands, Carol Williams, Christine Kaufmann and Bryce Bennett all spent a lot of time defending equality and testifying against discrimination, bigotry and homophobia in this session. If you see any of them, thank them. Buy them a drink.

Hell, give them a kidney if they need one.

It is folks such as these- and all who testified, protested, blogged and wrote letters-, who keep our freedoms alive- and who stand in the face of political bigotry and chicanery.  And let’s not forget Jamee Greer, Mike Wessler, Niki Zupanic and all the representatives of groups who lobbied for human equality- they get all the abuse, ridicule and sleepless nights, but not enough recognition. Drinks and kidneys for them, too.

Let’s give Carol Williams the last word (for now):

“I’m proud of our work.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will wish you luck in the next session probably trying to fix a lot of the things we broke this time.”

Progress, But Still Disappointing

March 29th, from Diane Sands:

Friends…

Today I attempted to “blast” SB 276 out of hostile Judiciary Committee and onto the Floor for a vote. This is Senator Facey’s bill to remove offensive language about “Deviate Sexual Conduct”….the law was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 but the legislature insists on keeping it on the books as part of sentence in the Sex Crimes part of MCA that includes bestiality.

Rep. Ken Peterson still claims that the Court didn’t address this issue entirely and that the crime should stay on the books, including the FELONY status with a penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine up to$50,000 or both.

While we didn’t get the 60 votes required, we did get 51, including a number of Republicans who believe it is a privacy issue.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THE 20 PLUS YEARS I HAVE WORKED ON THIS TOPIC THAT WE HAVE EVER WON THE MAJORITY OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE!!!!

I view this a great progress, especially with the ultra conservative make up of the current legislature.

Sands, the first openly gay member of the Montana Legislature, is a force of nature and a champion of human rights. The words she chose to introduce her motion are powerful and deserve a look/listen:

The words of the opposition also need to be heard- the ignorance and intolerance are epic, an embarrassment to the State of Montana and, indeed the whole country.

The Montana Taliban’s Jihad

Yesterday, the Montana House of Representatives voted to nullify any local anti-discrimination ordinances (Missoula and Bozeman), forcing cities and towns to rely on state law which doesn’t protect LGBT persons from discrimination. 60 Republicans voted for the bill, all 32 House Democrats joined by seven enlightened Republicans voted against. From The Missoulian

It was the second bill that passed Tuesday to nullify a locally adopted policy in Missoula. Earlier, the House banned enactment of local initiatives such as the one Missoula County voters approved in 2006 to make marijuana crimes the lowest priority of law enforcement.
“It is ironic that the first bill of the day and the last bill of the day both intend to override the expressed will of Missoulians to govern ourselves as we see fit,” said Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula.

It’s time to call a spade a spade.

There is only one way to describe the faction of the Montana Republican party which is voting to legislate their own arrogant morality, usurping the clear will of persons in municipalities to govern themselves in favor of theological, idealogical and biblical precepts while blatantly ignoring science, reason and due diligence: Religious extremism.

Like The Taliban.

And there is not much they won’t do to erode the rights of other human beings- including ignoring valid democratic processes. I almost believe that they won’t be happy until the statue of the Goddess of Liberty is torn from the top of the Capitol Building and replaced with a cross….

In my opinion, term limits have simply contributed to this process, giving people no chance to cultivate relationships and actually govern. Instead, people are focused on issues and positions, not long-term goals and objectives.

Montana’s Taliban needs to be called to accountability. I refuse to believe that the will of the people is to strip other human beings of protections which were carefully put into place by those who know them best. I refuse to believe that the majority of Montanans approve of the ignorant, dirty dancing these legislators are doing in the name of God their constituents. I refuse to believe that most Montanans want LGBT persons discriminated against, maimed- perhaps dead, because of a lack of protection.

Prove me right. Please.

Dirty Dancing Exposed

Hot on the heels of my Dirty Dancing post yesterday, Charles Johnson of the Lee State Bureau (Billings Gazette, Missoulian, Independent Record, Montana Standard, Ravalli Republic) has posted an article outlining the complaints against House Judiciary Chair Ken Peterson, R-Billings. Excerpt:

Advocates for civil rights, human rights and abortion rights say they aren’t getting a fair shake from House Judiciary Chairman Ken Peterson, R-Billings, at public hearings.

They are critical of Peterson’s fairness in scheduling and running hearings, his limiting the ability of people to testify or at least state their names, and his failing to stop representatives or witnesses from making inflammatory comments such as calling abortion providers murderers and homosexuality an abomination.

For his part, Peterson, serving his fourth term in the Montana House of Representatives, defended how he runs the committee and dismissed the criticisms.

“I would say they’re absolutely wrong,” he said. “I try to be fair to everybody. That’s my goal. I’m an attorney. I know it’s very important that all parties be treated the same.”

Au contraire!

Johnson’s article continues with numerous examples complaints of unfair treatment from Planned Parenthood,  Civil Liberties Union of Montana and the Montana Human Rights Network- all known organizations that Republicans fear and despise. The shenanigans on display by the Judiciary leadership provides an opportunity for Republicans to use code words to invoke a familiar response to their followers, making over  these human rights groups into bogeymen, conjuring up terror in the hearts of the ignorant and easily led. More:

“The chair is shutting down public comment, he’s shutting down hearings on bills that are life-and-death situations for Montanans,” (Stacy) Anderson (of Planned Parenthood of Montana) said, adding, “I think the civility has degraded, and I think some of the questions to people are degrading.”

…One committee member, Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, said she believes Peterson violated House rules by not allowing people to come to the podium and at least state their name and their positions on four bills. She said she couldn’t recall this happening before, but figured out a way around it by reading to the committee the names on the sign-in sheet and having people stand as she called their names.

“It only takes a few minutes for people to stand and say their name,” Sands said. By not allowing people that courtesy, she said, “it shows disrespect to those people and to the legislative process.”

Diane Sands- a giant in Montana human rights as far as I’m concerned, is a shrewd and yet firmly convicted politician who has served this state- well beyond her constituency-with passion, distinction and strength. She’s well worth listening to. And Johnson’s article is worth reading in its entirety.

Maybe twice.

And Carol Williams, D-Missoula’s response for those of you who haven’t seen it: