Crowd Calls For LGBTQ Rights At Capitol 'Rainbow Rally'
The Montana Capitol steps were submerged under a sea of rainbow colors Monday as a group rallied in protest of bills moving through the Legislature that would impact LGBTQ residents.
"We want them to know we’re here, we’re queer and we’re not going anywhere," Shawn Reagor, an organizer with the Montana Human Rights Network, told a crowd outside the state Capitol Monday afternoon.
"Please be who you are and love who you love."
There are four bills in particular that LGBTQ advocates and allies oppose. The bills separately propose banning transgender women from participating in interscholastic sports, regulating health care for trans youth and adding requirements for trans people wishing to legally change their birth certificates.
The "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" passed the Senate and is scheduled for it’s first hearing in the House next week. Opponents of the bill say it will allow for discrimination of LGBTQ Montanans. Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras recently spoke in support of the bill on behalf of Governor Greg Gianforte, saying there is a need for further protection of religious freedom.
"You have heard the list of cases where state or local government has taken actions that have unduly burdened the exercise of free religion," Juras said.
All four bills opposed by LGBTQ advocates are carried by Republicans, who argue the legislation is needed to stop transgender youth from making permanent health care decisions and to keep interscholastic sports fair.
Democratic House Minority Leader Kim Abbott said her caucus will continue to push back against the proposals.
"You guys have shown up week in and week out in hostile committee hearings to tell your stories and the stories of your families and the stories of your communities, and I have to tell you that it makes a difference. It moves people."
All four bills are advancing, but none have reached Gov. Gianforte’s desk yet for consideration.