In the 45 years since the Stonewall riots – where the modern LGBTQ movement was born – we’ve seen extraordinary progress on LGBTQ rights in this country, including last year’s overturning of part of the Defense of Marriage Act and the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In Montana we have been making great strides also – with the passage of nondiscrimination ordinances in Missoula, Helena, Butte and Bozeman, as well as one in the works for Billings, we are on the path to protect all our citizens. The ACLU of Montana is representing four couples in a lawsuit that challenges Montana’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. We believe that the courts will interpret the same-sex marriage ban as a violation of the 14th Amendment, and Montana will be a role model for other states moving forward.
This progress is rooted in the same principles that underlie reproductive rights: Politicians should not get to decide what you do with your body or what your family looks like, and rights in this country should not depend on the state you live in.
We at Planned Parenthood of Montana believe that reproductive rights are deeply connected to civil rights for all Americans. We have long stood with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the struggle for full equality – many of whom turn to Planned Parenthood for health care, information and education.
Members of the LGBTQ community face greater obstacles to obtaining and benefiting from sexual and reproductive health services than non-LGBTQ people. In addition to high rates of stress due to systematic harassment and discrimination – which has been shown to affect physical and mental health – LGBTQ people face low rates of health insurance coverage, high rates of HIV/AIDS and cancer, and high rates of discrimination from medical providers. LGBTQ people of color are at an even higher risk for these disparities.
This is why each of our five health centers welcomes LGBTQ patients.
PPMT also delivers sex education that covers the full range of topics affecting sexual health, and we provide sensitive and accurate information, education and resources on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity to youth, parents, and men and women of all ages every day.
While this country has seen significant strides in the LGBTQ movement in recent years, there is still work to be done. PPMT vows continued support for any future legislative efforts that will allow for greater access to health care and information for the LGBTQ community in our state.
At PPMT, we realize our incredible patients and supporters don’t comprise any one identity, and we’re grateful for the many volunteers, staff and supporters of all genders and identities who work every day to ensure that people in Montana get the health care and information they need.
This year, 45 years after the birth of the modern LGBTQ movement at Stonewall, we are committed now more than ever to fighting for LGBTQ rights. We know the only way we can move forward – all of us together – is by standing side by side and caring, no matter what.
Martha Stahl is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Montana.