Leaders from two of the nation’s largest gay rights funders will help raise money for students and organizations in Montana at a fundraiser at Corby Skinner’s historic “Castle” on Friday, January 25 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Kris Hermanns, the Executive Director of the Pride Foundation, and Tim Sweeney, CEO and President of the Gill Foundation, will speak about the state of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality movement in Montana and the impact of recent marriage equality wins in the region.
For more information, to RSVP (invite yourself!), go to the Facebook event page here.
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.
After a year that has included many celebrations at the local and national level, we have one more exciting headline to share.
Pride Foundation was just named one of the Top 12 high-impact nonprofits working in the field of local LGBTQ equality and support. This esteemed award from comes from Philanthropedia, a division of GuideStar. The rankings are based on in-depth surveys and conversations with hundreds of experts, including academics, foundation leaders, policy makers, and consultants.
Pride Foundation is honored to be recognized for such a prestigious award. We are also thankful to each of you—we reach our successes only with your support. As the holiday season continues, we are reminded of what matters most in our own lives and in the life of an organization like Pride Foundation. We are so grateful for the opportunity to champion for inspired students and innovative nonprofits all year long.
Here is a link to two stories of one scholar (Andrew Nichols) and one grantee (Gay Straight Alliance at Salish Kootenai College) that exemplify what can happen when you take the risk to do what you believe in and when you have a community of friends at your side. These stories also point to the reason Pride Foundation was honored with this award—together we are transforming the lives of people in the Northwest.
I understand that so many of you have contributed generously to many causes this year. Knowing that achieving full equality for all is important to you, I would ask that you consider making a personally significant year-end gift to Pride Foundation. To those of you who have already given generously, thank you. Your gift will be joined with the voices and momentum of the entire community and region. And you never know—you may profoundly change or even save a life.
Kris Hermanns, Executive Director
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.
Pride Foundation, The Northwest’s largest LGBT community foundation is accepting Letters of Inquiry for its 2012 Grant Cycle. Pride Foundation is proud to support LGBTQ equality in Montana. Building on our first Montana grant awarded in the 1990s supporting a LGBTQ youth conference, we have been growing support for Montana organizations and scholars thanks to donors and volunteers with more than $300,000 awarded to date. For Every $1.00 given in Montana, $3.80 comes back to the state- allowing Pride Foundation to make major investments in Montana Equality.
The simple online Letter of Inquiry application is available here. If you are a previous applicant, please log in using your email address and password. If you are a new applicant, please select “Create New Account” on the registration page. Only successful Letter of Inquiry applicants will be invited to submit a full application. However, all applicants will receive notification.
Please review our grant guidelines before applying.
2012 Application Process
Letter of Inquiry
Full Application (By Invitation)
(Funds will be disbursed in December 2012)
All of Pride Foundation’s granting decisions are made by teams of local volunteers knowledgeable in their community’s needs.
If you need more information regarding this process, contact your area’s Regional Development Organizer.
In Montana, that’s Caitlin Copple. She can be reached at 406.546.7017, by email: Caitlin@pridefoundation.org
For general grant assistance or questions, please email our Director of Grants Programming or call 206.323.3318 or toll free at 800.735.7287.
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