Nov 16, 2011 7:22 PM by Marnee Banks (Helena)

Equality campaign announced for Helena

This week a group of human rights organizers in Montana are spearheading a campaign for equality, and plan to launch their campaign in Helena on Thursday.

Bobbie Zenker, a civil rights attorney, said, "I've experienced discrimination in Montana's highest levels of government, in the University system and in one of Montana's major corporations."

Zenker now works as a civil rights attorney for Disability Rights Montana and she wants to see the City of Helena ensure that this discrimination won't happen to someone else.

Zenker said, "I want to see a Montana where people are valued for their ability, for their skills, for what they bring to the table, rather than who they are or who they may choose to love."

She is working with the Montana Human Rights Network in asking the Helena City Commission to pass a non-discrimination ordinance.

The ordinance would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who live, work, and visit Helena from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and employment.

The Montana Human Rights Act states people cannot be discriminated against because of their race, creed, religion, color, sex, disability, age, or national origin.

During the 2011 Montana legislative session, Republican lawmakers killed a bill which added the words sexual orientation.

Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network noted, "We have been working to pass this at a statewide level for almost 20 years and we've just been up against an unfortunate political reality."

Greer continued, "Until we get statewide protection that includes LGBT in the Montana Human Rights Act, we are going to be pushing this at a city level across the state."

Zenker said, "Everybody matters, and we have the opportunity to make that our priority and make that our important value, to avoid intolerance and fear and hatred."

The Montana Human Rights Network will have a campaign kickoff event on Thursday evening at Hub Coffee from 6 to 8 pm; it is located at 314 North Last Chance Gulch.

The Missoula City Council passed a non discrimination ordinance in 2010, becoming the first Montana community to enact such a measure.

ONLINE: MT Human Rights Network;

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