With a population of more than 100,000, Billings is a good political litmus test for the entirety of Montana, which is why it is so crucial in the struggle for LGBTQ equality in our state.
“There is a saying in Montana politics: ‘As Billings goes, so goes Montana,’ explains Aaron Browning, a Montana Leadership Action Team member. “As the state’s largest city, what we do here affects an awful lot of people. Billings citizens have a long history of making sure our town is a welcoming and loving community that treats everyone with dignity and respect. That’s why it’s so important that we join the list of cities across the state that are passing non-discrimination ordinances.”
To that end, Pride Foundation is thrilled to partner with the ACLU of Montana, Montana Human Rights Network, TAP 365, and Not in Our Town Billings to begin laying the groundwork in Montana’s largest city for the municipal non-discrimination ordinance campaign.
Later this month, a leadership convening will take place along with a rally to support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act which is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 27. The Proposition 8 case from California will be heard the previous day on March 26. case that will be heard March 27.
The convening will take place at Grace United Methodist Church, 1935 Avenue B, from 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM on Saturday, March 23. It is open to LGBTQ residents and straight allies who want to hear the inside scoop on the upcoming non-discrimination ordinance campaign and learn about other tangible ways to take action for equality and social justice in the community. Kim Abbott, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, will facilitate an “Organizing 101” workshop as part of the day’s activities. Coffee, light breakfast, and lunch, will be provided by Pride Foundation.
Then, on Monday, March 25, participants will have the chance to apply their newly-honed leadership skills during a noon rally downtown at the federal courthouse, 2601 N. 2nd Avenue, (http://www.mtd.uscourts.gov/billings.html), against the Defense of Marriage Act in solidarity with Get Equal’s national day of action, Light to Justice (http://www.lighttojustice.org/).
“Fairness is a Montana value,” says the ACLU’s LGBT Organizer Liz Welch, who is based in Billings. “We see Billings as being uniquely poised to carry the momentum forward and create leaders and activists who can communicate that value in Eastern Montana.”
The March events will be a great kick-off to several months of activities in Billings coordinated by the ACLU. This includes a “Diversity Day” featuring: a staged reading by Gregory Hinton based on testimony from the Missoula non-discrimination ordinance hearing; a documentary and speech by first openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson; and a door-knocking campaign across the city to have conversations with residents about the need for fairness for all Montana families. For a complete list of events, visit Fair is Fair Montana.
To learn more or RSVP for the convening, please email me at Caitlin@pridefoundation.org or call 406-546-7017.