Over the past several weeks, HRC has been on the ground in Montana closely watching LGBTQ legislation. Working with partners and leaders on the ground, we have learned much about the state of LGBTQ equality in the Treasure State.
HRC recently sat down with Shawn, a transgender man, about his work as a local advocate and leader in the Montana LGBTQ community.
What is your connection to Montana and the LBGTQ community?
I have lived in most of Montana’s major cities and have been involved with LGBT+ activism for over five years. In January, the Montana Human Rights Network hired me and in that position I do some outreach work with the Human Rights Campaign. I am part of the LGBTQ Coalition with the Pride Foundation, Montana ACLU, Montana Human Rights Network, Forward Montana, the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and the Gender Expansion Project.
What type of anti-LGBTQ legislation are you tracking?
During the 2017 Montana legislative session the majority of our work has been focused on adding sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to non-discrimination laws. This type of legislation is incredibly important because there are currently no protections against discrimination for LGBT+ people in the state of Montana. That means someone can be denied housing or kicked out of a store – simply for being who they are. The proposed bill was House Bill 417 and was sponsored by Kelly McCarthy of Billings. Unfortunately, we were not able to bring it out of the House Judiciary Committee. The vote failed with all Democrats on the committee voting in favor of protections, and all Republicans voting against protecting LGBT+ Montanans.
What other work are you doing outside of lobbying for/against legislation?
Even though we weren’t able to add state wide protections this year, there are still a number of areas where we are gaining ground. One of the big things we are doing is organizing and getting more people involved and educated about LGBT+ rights. Getting people involved and informed at the local level and in communities all across Montana allows us to help shift the culture. It means someone is there who can stand up and speak out against a homophobic or transphobic joke. It teaches people to call their representatives and hold them accountable if they voted against the Human Rights Act. Most importantly, it provides ways to connect young and older members a safe place to live right here in Montana.
Learn more about HRC’s work in Montana at hrc.org/Montana.