I hope you’ll join me May 4th in Billings for an amazing night of all-stars!
This past weekend was important to me for a number of reasons.
But I also got to meet and spend some quality time with dedicated Montana people who care about equality in our state. Some became even more strongly convinced after watching “Diversity Day” and “Love Free Or Die” presented in local churches.
Even I- a committed partner of the ACLU and the Fair Is Fair Campaign- became inspired after hearing Bishop Robinson speak about the need for Christian compassion and understanding in the face of fear and unintentional ignorance about LGBTIQ persons.
“Our job is to make this an issue of compassion and justice, not theology”, Bishop Robinson said. “We have to make the issue of fairness one that brings a face to mind whenever we talk about equality. This is about people.”
But being inspired is only as good as the actions it produces.
I want to encourage you to bolster the ACLU’s Fair Is Fair campaign by taking your inspiration and desire for justice and take action- by becoming a member.
My family belongs because we believe in the work of the ACLU. We believe it is important to support a coalition of organizations to bring full equality to all Montanans- but that only works if we all come together. The Montana ACLU is helping to make that happen, and I’m proud to be a supporting member.
I hope you’ll join us.
- You Don’t Want To Miss This: Big Gay Weekend In Billings (dgsmith.org)
- Win A Copy Of Love Free Or Die From ShockYa’s Twitter Giveaway (shockya.com)
- First gay Anglican bishop, Gene Robinson, reflects on tenure in New Hampshire (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Bishop Gene Robinson Predicts 6-3 Supreme Court Ruling Striking Down DOMA (ontopmag.com)
- ‘Love Free or Die,’ Film on Bishop Gene Robinson, Comes to DVD (advocate.com)
- Former Felons Celebration Thursday (dgsmith.org)
Bishop Gene Robinson is a pioneer, and I’m really looking forward to meeting him- this is a big deal for Montana.
I’m also excited about Gregory Hinton’s play about the Missoula non-discrimination ordinance. It promises to be an informative, enlightening and inspirational weekend for everyone interested in equality. I will be in Billings Friday through Sunday- I hope to see you there!
Our Hearing on State-Wide Non-Discrimination Protection is TOMORROW!
The hearing for HB 481 to amend the Montana Human Rights Act to include protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression will be heard tomorrow morning! The bill is sponsored by Rep. Edie McClafferty of Butte, here are the details:
House Judiciary Committee
Tuesday, February 19th
We received less than 24 hours notice for this hearing. That means it is difficult for people who live outside of Helena to come and testify in support of the bill. We know this is frustrating, but we are asking people who live in Helena to help us have a significant presence at this hearing! HB 481 will protect LGBT Montanans from discrimination in a number of key areas including housing, employment, and public accommodations. Read the bill by clicking here.
Two ways you can help!
1) Come to the Capitol tomorrow morning and show your support! We aren’t sure how much time we will have for testimony, so bring a written copy that you can submit to the committee! Scroll down for some notes on decorum at the Capitol.
2) Contact the House Judiciary Committee right now and urge them to support HB 481! You can do this by calling the Capitol switchboard at 406-444-4800 and asking to leave a message for the House Judiciary Committee. You can also use the Legislature’s web-based form by clicking here and choosing to send your message to the entire committee.
Let us know if you can make the hearing by replying to Jamee@mhrn.org. We’re frustrated about the short notice, but we are going to make the best of it.
Thank you for your continued support.
Montana Human Rights Network
Information and Reminders for Hearing on HB 481
Please do not engage opponents of LGBT equality. Our efforts to achieve legal protections for LGBT Montanans are about dignity, fairness, and security. We want to bring those values into the hearing room. Engaging our opponents outside, or inside, the committee room is not a good use of our collective energy!
Chairman Kerns has run a fair committee this session, but we know that our time for testimony will be limited and we want as many people as possible to be able to testify on the record. Please keep your remarks concise so that we can have as many supporters of LGBT legal protections as possible get up to the microphone. Try not to repeat testimony, be respectful, and talk about how this policy would affect you, your family, your friends, and your community. Our testimony is most effective when we stick to our values and talk about our lives!
We are asking all supporters of LGBT equality to respect decorum inside the committee room. This means no clapping, booing, or interrupting others. Lastly, we’d like to remind all our supporters to be smart, safe, take care of themselves, and to look out for one another.
- Montana Supreme Court Allows Domestic Partnership Case for Same-Sex Couples To Move Forward (dgsmith.org)
- Personal Finance Guide for LGBT | AptusInsurance.com (aptusinsurance.com)
- Pride Foundation Scholar Helps Draft Montana Civil Unions Bill (dgsmith.org)
- Same-sex Marriage a Boost for Wedding Business (hispanicbusiness.com)
- ACLU: Federal court declares ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ unconstitutional (with video of Edie Windsor) (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Prosecutorial Discretion for Same-Sex Couples Affirmed (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
This was my reflection at the Bozeman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship this morning for their “LGBT Voices” service.
I grew up in the 70’s. A Roman Catholic. Back then, the emphasis was less on “Roman” and more on “Catholic”. Catholic as you might know means “Universal”.
My religious training as a kid was very ecumenical, non-dogmatic, fresh on the heels of Pope John’s Vatican Council- designed to open the windows and doors of the church for some fresh air- and as such, there was a heavy emphasis on social justice and the dignity of the human person. I had wonderful teachers, nuns, priests, parents, and peers- and we all believed steadfastly in this principle probably first espoused by Confucius:
“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.”
This, it seems, is one of the crowning principles of justice.
“Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself”
And I loved it- I still do. It guides my life even today.
But what I wished for myself was peace- and it was jeopardized, in some part, by the dogmatic underpinnings of shame in the faith that taught me those strong tenets of social justice. Something wasn’t quite right- and it took me decades to reconcile it. I was born, some have said, “disordered”. Simply because of something that flowed from the depths of my being, from my heart: I wanted to fall in love with another man.
Words like “disordered” or “unnatural” get thrown around a lot by people who really aren’t willing to try and understand. They may find it more comfortable to sit in judgment, without trying to sit in empathy or compassion. Possibly because they lack the imagination to believe that God could truly surprise the world.
But seriously, if that’s not something God would do, there’s not much point in being God, is there?
But there it is. This is who I am.
And I’m not alone. There are millions of people, like myself who are born out of the course of “normal”. For some it’s sexuality, for some it’s different senses of beauty or reason or silence or vision. It’s all the same.
I realized that sense of justice that I was born with, that sense of “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself” must be followed by that which is like it “Do not take away from others what you do not wish to take away from yourself.”
LGBT persons must not be oppressed- we must be included, we must be loved- not only in spirit, but in person. For me, this is peace. This is justice.
And keeping me and my sisters and brothers and friends from achieving the same level of happiness as they enjoy is unjust. It’s unfair, and it’s spiteful.
This is the civil rights issue of our day. This is the moral rights issue of our day. And I’m not just talking about churches and theology here. As one nun I know and love reminded me recently “freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.” I don’t have the right to force my religious beliefs on anyone, but conversely, no one has the right to force theirs on me. Which seems to happen a lot sometimes- the forcing of belief on others. I have freedom of religion, so I’m going to use it, not abuse it.
My religion is based on love.
Right now, in Montana, there is a campaign to have fairness for all couples- regardless of sexuality. It represents everything I believe: that I deserve the same protections as my parents had. It’s called the Fair is Fair Campaign– and I have enough bumper stickers for every car in the parking lot….
I left Montana for 10 years, but I promised myself when I moved back, that I would not hide who I am, that I would “suffer the slings and arrows” if it meant that a kid who grew up here would have a better life than I did. Because there’s nothing shameful about being who you were created to be.
And, because love is always optimistic, I hope and I trust that just maybe, someday, sooner than later, we’ll all believe that.
- Mitt Romney Denies Freedom of Religion (alternet.org)
- Obama Defends Freedom of Religion (chuck-watts.org)
- Faith groups come together to launch social justice organization in Nevada (bikyamasr.com)
- Is It a Coincidence that Coming Out Day and Vatican II’s Anniversary Are Today? (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
- Greer Among Young NW LGBTQ Leaders Invited to The White House (dgsmith.org)
- Resigned Priests Come Out For Marriage Equality (dgsmith.org)
SHARE YOUR STORY
The ACLU of MT needs your help to
make domestic partnerships a reality in Montana!
Real families with real stories
will help us convince the public that same-sex couples need
equal protection to safeguard our families in times of crisis.
For more information
read the ACLU memo below
or write to
ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator Ninia Baehr at email@example.com.
In Montana, the state government offers legal protections to couples and families that help them care for one another. Right now, these protections are only available to couples who get married. This means that opposite-sex couples are eligible for the safeguards offered by the state, because they are able to marry. But loving, committed couples of the same sex are left without the protections they need to care for one another in times of crisis, and that’s not fair.
The Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people. That’s why the ACLU of Montana is suing on behalf of same-sex couples who have been denied the ability to take care of each other and their families. In the lawsuit Donaldson and Guggenheim v. Montana, the plaintiffs are asking the state to create a domestic partnership registry that would grant them access to the safeguards that are currently only available through marriage. Here are a few of the ways the plaintiffs have been discriminated against:
- Mary Leslie of Bozeman lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.
- Denise Boettcher of Laurel was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died.
- When Mary Anne Guggenheim of Helena had a hip replacement, a health care provider would not speak to her long-time partner Jan Donaldson without a release.
Lawsuits like Donaldson and Guggenheim are important, but to win lasting fairness for gay and lesbian couples we need to convince not only the courts but also the general public that Montanans need domestic partnerships. Our public education campaign, Fair is Fair, highlights the real stories of real people who have been denied equal protection. We are looking for same-sex couples who are willing to share their stories about how they have been denied basic protections afforded to other families. We are especially interested in hearing from couples who have been denied one of the following rights:
The right to make medical decisions for their partner if s/he is incapable of doing so
Inheritance rights or the right to determine burial arrangements
The right to family medical or bereavement leave
Priority to become the court-appointed guardian for an incapacitated partner
Have you had experiences like these?
If so, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (406) 579- 8884. ACLU staff will listen and talk with you to explore whether your story might be a good fit with the Fair is Fair campaign. We will keep your information confidential unless and until you feel comfortable telling your story publicly. For more information about the Fair is Fair campaign go to www.fairisfairmontana.org. And please do pass this on if you know a couple who might be interested. Don’t miss this opportunity to make your voice heard!
- Fairness For All Families- Billings (dgsmith.org)
- Nevada Same-Sex Couple Denied Hospital Visitation Despite Domestic Partnership (thinkprogress.org)
- Newlyweds Give Same-Sex Couples First Dance at Wedding (advocate.com)
- Power of Attorney Critical for LGBT Couples (blogs.lawyers.com)
- Gay Activist Goes Undercover At NOM Conference (patheos.com)
- HRC: Paul Ryan voted against hate-crimes law, end of military ban, letting gay couples marry adopt (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- Hate (Officially) Comes To Billings For A Day (dgsmith.org)
Can the struggle for gay equality be compared to the black civil rights movement? What are the similarities and differences? And how can people of faith participate in both movements? These are the questions panelists and audience participants will explore during the cross-Montana Fair is Fair Tour in September.
The tour, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and Truth in Progress, will visit six Montana cities over nine days, including Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls and Helena, and feature Rev. Gil Caldwell, an esteemed civil rights activist who started working for equality in the South of the 1960s and has never looked back.
“Most of us have been wounded by others for a variety of reasons. Some persons and some systems have hurt us because of our race, gender, sexual orientation, economic and educational poverty, religion, politics, same sex partnered relationship, physical characteristics, etc,” says Caldwell. “I look forward to talking about the ‘solidarity of our woundedness’ and how we who have been hurt for a multiplicity of reasons, can discover healing for ourselves as we seek to enable the healing of others.”
Caldwell, documentarian Marilyn Bennett and ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator Ninia Baehr, plus special guests in some cities will discuss how communities can support gay and lesbian couples’ work for relationship recognition, and how that struggle parallels and differs from the racial justice movement.
“These are different histories. These are very different experiences,” says Bennett. “But the fight for civil rights, and acknowledging equal rights have important similarities.”
Rev. Caldwell is a retired United Methodist Minister who participated in the “Mississippi Freedom Summer” of 1964, the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, and the March on Washington. He is a founding member of the United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church and the Black Methodists for Church Renewal. Today Rev. Caldwell is exploring how faith communities and all people can support work for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality with Bennett through the Truth in Progress project.
Baehr is the ACLU of Montana’s LGBT Advocacy Coordinator and spearheads the Fair is Fair project. Through her work she has been reaching out to clergy members who support domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.
“We’re happy to be working with churches on this tour,” Baehr said. “Nearly 100 clergy members across the state have already stood up for fairness and signed onto a statement supporting justice, compassion and defense of basic human rights for same-sex couples.”
All events are free and open to the public.
Billings — Saturday, Sept. 17
Grace United Methodist Church, 1935 Avenue B
Bozeman — Monday, Sept. 19
Montana State University, SUB 233-235
With special guest, Dr. Walter Fleming, MSU Native American Studies Department Director
Missoula — Tuesday, Sept. 20
University Congregational UCC, 405 University Ave.
With special guests, David Herrera and Steven Barrios, board members of the Montana Two-Spirit Society
Kalispell — Wednesday, Sept. 21
Christ Church Episcopal, 213 Third Ave. East
Great Falls — Saturday, Sept. 24
Great Falls Public Library, 301 2nd Ave. N
With special guest Steven Barrios, board member of the Montana Two-Spirit Society
Helena — Monday, Sept. 26
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Corner of Logan and Lawrence
With special guest Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network, who will discuss work for an LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance in Helena