GREAT FALLS –On Thursday evening, organizations and community members in support of LGBTQ rights met to brainstorm ways to support each other and the community.
Representatives from the Montana Human Rights Network, the LGBTQ Center in Great Falls and members from several churches came to the discussion, which encouraged unity against potential efforts by legislation on both the state and national levels to change LGBTQ rights in the future.
Organizers say the event was originally intended as a rally after rumors spread President Trump would announce an executive order to allow businesses or individuals to refuse service based on their own religious beliefs without discipline from the government at the National Day of Prayer breakfast in Washington D.C.
However, on Tuesday, the White House issued a press release saying that the president is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community. The release went on to say the executive order signed in 2014 to protect LGBTQ workers would remain intact.
Organizers say the future still remains uncertain which brings up concerns like federal protections for LGBTQ employees, equal marriage rights, the right to adopt, and reproductive rights.
“Since the election and inauguration there have been several little groups that have bubbled up in the community, and they’ve come to realize that we need to kind of pool those resources and get together and, and kind of helping support one another so there can be a unified voice,” said First Congregational United Church of Christ Pastor Lynne Spencer-Smith.
Representatives from the LGBTQ Center also discussed it’s, ‘Open to All’ initiative, which started in Great Falls late January in partnership with the Pride Foundation.
The movement encourages businesses to show their support for the LGBTQ community by placing decal-stickers in their front windows.
The grassroots campaign has already launched in Helena; Pride Foundation organizers say it’s been a success there as well.
Organizers say 20 Great Falls area businesses have already joined “Open to All” since it began.
“We hope that it continues to grow, I mean we’d like to see the number double if not triple if not quadruple, but that’s all going to come in time and we’re hoping that just by the folks who are showing up here tonight and by the coverage that we can get the word out and people can see this is a worthwhile endeavor,” said LGBTQ Center Board Member Tyler Menzel.
The group is promoting three events to keep the community conversations going:
Feb. 13: PROGRESSIVES UNITE 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Great Falls College MSU in room B101. “An opportunity to hear from different progressive groups and to see how we can work together. Social time afterward at Celtic Cowboy- an ‘Open to All’ business!”
Feb. 20: EQUALITY IN MONTANA LOBBY DAY 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Helena at the Capitol. “Spend the morning at the Capitol talking with elected officials about the importance of clear statewide protections from discrimination. In the afternoon, move to Plymouth Congregational to build understanding and improve skill sets to ensure this is a long-term sustainable movement. Will work to arrange carpools.”
For more information on the equality event click here.
Feb. 27: LGBTQ CENTER COMMUNITY POTLUCK 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art. “Bring your favorite dish and come share conversation and great food as we learn each other’s names and stories and strengthen our community.”
To find out more about Open To All – Helena visit their Facebook page.
For a list of Helena businesses that support the initiative click here.