Dear Montana –
Let me be clear: sometimes, I miss the state I grew up in. I miss having multiple lakes within a 15 minute driving distance of my home. I miss clean air and water, the chance to see endangered birds nested outside my parents’ house, and mountain hikes that took me higher than some people will ever be in their lives.
I miss the beauty of Montana. I’m not sure, however, that I can ever return.
What I don’t miss, and the reason why I let, is highlighted by Rep. Kristen Hansen (R-Havre)’s bill to ban access to basic human rights. Rep. Hansen’s bill, just passed through the MT House committee to be put to a full vote, prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances or other policies that protect groups that are not recognized under the Montana Human Rights Act.
Here’s the problem, Montana. I’m not protected under the Montana Human Rights Act. Not because of who I am or who I am not (though I’d be happy to tell you over a beer or a glass of wine), but because of who I am perceived to be. I am regularly perceived to be a lesbian – because I own a house with a woman, because I love her – and that, under the MHRA, is reason enough for someone to look at me and say “Dyke, I don’t like you. You’re fired.”
And it’s legal.
I left Montana running at full speed when I was 18 years old because of the fear, hatred, and bigotry that I knew would be coming into my life. 13 years later, I have never returned for more than a vacation, despite the assurances of my friends and family that I was mistaken, that people from Montana aren’t like that.
Well … prove it, Montana voters and Montana representatives. Prove it by rising up and telling YOUR representatives that you trust communities to define those who may be discriminated in their communities. Prove it by defying this actively hateful bill.
Prove it. Because I was a smart, passionate, motivated, good citizen who left to never return. How many more do you want to lose?
Krista Benson – previously of Kalispell, MT; now of Spokane, WA