Helena leaders reinforce LGBTQ+ support ahead of Former Felons Ball

Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-20 10:39:27-05

HELENA — Helena leaders are reinforcing their support for the LGBTQ+ community and related events ahead of the Former Felons Ball.

There is increased attention on this year, with people close to the event saying it has drawn hostile comments from some individuals.

The ball is a fundraiser for Montana Pride, and supports the LGBTQ+ community.

Kevin Hamm, the president of Montana Pride, says he is aware of the comments but adds he's heard a lot of positive feedback as well.

"We've heard a little bit about that, but we've worked with law enforcement from the FBI all the way down to Helena PD, and we're ready to make sure that the events go off without a hitch and everybody has a good time," said Hamm.

The City of Helena seemed to confirm the hateful rhetoric circulating about the event.

A letter sent late Friday afternoon that was signed by all four city commissioners and the mayor acknowledged what they called targeted statements against a downtown event, and said Helena Police, and other agencies, were coordinating with event organizers to ensure safety.

The letter followed a tweet earlier in the day from Mayor Wilmot Collins, saying the city was committed to making sure that our LGBTQI community feels safe and valued.

Despite the comments, Hamm says the LGBTQ+ community is strong and is excited about the events this weekend.

"You know, this is a celebration of our community. It's a time for us to get together. It's a time for our allies to get together with us and hang out and have a good time. And yeah, it's super exciting," said Hamm.

The legislatureis considering a bill that would put restrictionson where drag shows could be held, and who could attend them.

House Bill 359 would prohibit minors from attending drag shows and prohibit them from being held at schools, libraries, or locations that receive state funding. The bill has advanced out of committee but has not been heard in the full house yet.

The Former Felons' Ball is scheduled to start at 3 pm on Saturday.