LGBT rights in Montana
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Montana may face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity is legal in Montana. Same-sex couples and families headed by same-sex couples are eligible for all of the protections available to opposite-sex married couples, as same-sex marriage has been legal since November 2014. However, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is not banned statewide.
|Status||Legal since 1997 |
(Gryczan v. State)
|Gender identity||Altering sex on birth certificate does not require sex reassignment surgery|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation and gender identity protected in state employment|
|Recognition of relationships||Same-sex marriage since 2014|
|Adoption||Same-sex couples allowed to adopt|
Among the Native Americans, perceptions towards gender and sexuality were very different from that of the Western world. Among the Blackfoot people, the a'yai-kik-ahsi (literally acts like a woman) are male-bodied individuals who behave, dress and live as women. Likewise, female-bodied individuals who act and behave as men are known as awau-katsik-saki (literally warrior woman) or ninauh-oskiti-pahpyaki (literally manly-hearted woman). The Gros Ventre, the Cheyenne, the Assiniboine and the Crow refer to male-to-female individuals as athuth, he'émáné'e, wįktą and bate (or badé), respectively, whereas female-to-male people are known as hetanémáné'e among the Cheyenne. The bate would perform domestic tasks (such as cooking and needlework), dress as women and even marry. Osh-Tisch, one of the most famous Crow bate, and others were forced by an American agent in the 1890s to wear male clothes and perform manual labor, to which the other Crows protested "saying it was against [their] nature".
The Montana Territory adopted its first criminal code in 1865. It included a provision prohibiting sodomy ("crime against nature") with five years' to life imprisonment. In 1878, Montana saw one of the earliest recorded sodomy cases in the United States; in Territory v. Mahaffey, a man was convicted of sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy. In 1915, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that fellatio (oral sex), whether heterosexual and homosexual, was also criminal. Over the years, the courts convicted multiple people of sodomy, even consenting adults.
In 1972, the Montana Legislature rejected a proposal that read "private sexual acts between consenting adults do not constitute a crime", by a 69-16 vote. In 1973, a new criminal code was enacted. Sodomy was renamed "deviate sexual conduct", made applicable only to people of the same sex (thus legalizing heterosexual oral and anal sex), and punishable by up to ten years' imprisonment and a possible fine of 50,000 dollars. A 1989 sex offender registration law further required anyone convicted of sodomy to register with the local chief of police and report any change in address.
Legality of same-sex sexual activity
Montana revised its Criminal Code in 1973 and retained its anti-sodomy statute. In 1991, the Montana Legislature made its rape and sexual assault laws gender-neutral, providing for a uniform penalty for both heterosexual and homosexual rape (minimum two years' imprisonment). Attempts to repeal the state's sodomy law failed in 1993 and 1995. In 1997, the Montana Supreme Court held in Gryczan v. State that the state law prohibiting same-sex sexual contact between consenting adults was unconstitutional. Justice James C. Nelson, writing for the 6-1 majority, stated:
It cannot seriously be argued that Respondents do not have a subjective or actual expectation of privacy in their sexual activities. With few exceptions not at issue here, all adults regardless of gender, fully and properly expect that their consensual sexual activities will not be subject to the prying eyes of others or to governmental snooping and regulation. Quite simply, consenting adults expect that neither the state nor their neighbors will be co-habitants of their bedrooms.
On February 20, 2013, the Montana State Senate passed a bill, by a vote of 38 to 11 vote, that repealed part of the sodomy statute dealing with consenting adults. On April 10, 2013, the Montana House of Representatives passed the bill by a vote of 64 to 35 votes. On April 18, 2013, Governor Steve Bullock signed the legislation into law.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
A federal court ruled the state's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional on November 19, 2014. Judge Brian Morris issued an injunction against the state's enforcement of its ban that took effect immediately. The state's appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was mooted when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2015 that Ohio's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, striking down every remaining state ban.
Montana voters had adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2004 that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Similar restrictions appear in the state statutes.
Adoption and parenting
Montana permits adoption by individuals. There are no explicit prohibitions on adoption by same-sex couples or on second-parent adoption by a person of the same sex as the first parent. In Kulstad v. Maniaci, Barbara Maniaci refused to allow Michelle Kulstad to see the children they had raised together and who had legally been adopted only by Maniaci, but the trial court sided with Kulstad and granted her parental rights. The Montana Supreme Court affirmed this ruling 6-1 on October 7, 2009, setting precedent allowing for future stepparent adoptions by same-sex couples statewide.
Montana, by executive order, prohibits discrimination on the bias of sexual orientation and gender identity in state employment and state (sub)contractors. In 2000, Governor Marc Racicot first issued state personnel rules prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation with respect to employment by state government. In November 2008, Governor Brian Schweitzer issued Executive Order No. 41-2008, broadening state government's non-discrimination provisions. In January 2016, Governor Steve Bullock expanded the protections to cover gender identity and expanded it to state contractors and subcontractors.
On February 23, 2011, the Montana House of Representatives passed, by a 62-37 vote, a bill that would have prohibited local municipalities from adopting anti-discrimination policies not protected in the state law. On April 28, 2011, the bill died in the Montana State Senate's Standing Committee.
The following Montana municipalities have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in both the public and private sector: Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Missoula, and Whitefish.
Missoula County prohibits discrimination against county employees only.
Hate crime law
Gender identity and expression
Transgender people may change their gender marker on their official documents in Montana. Previously, they could only do this following sex reassignment surgery and clinical treatment. However, changes in December 2017 removed these requirements. Since then, transgender individuals may change their legal gender simply after sending an affidavit to the state.
In June 2018, it was revealed that a conservative initiative to require transgender people to use public bathrooms corresponding with their birth sex had failed to collect the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot.
A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) opinion poll found that 57% of Montana residents supported same-sex marriage, while 37% opposed it and 6% were unsure. Additionally, 61% supported an anti-discrimination law covering sexual orientation and gender identity. 33% were opposed.
|% support||% opposition||% no opinion|
|Public Religion Research Institute||January 3-December 30, 2018||300||?||72%||24%||4%|
|Public Religion Research Institute||April 5-December 23, 2017||348||?||61%||33%||6%|
|Public Religion Research Institute||April 29, 2015-January 7, 2016||465||?||64%||32%||4%|
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- Executive Order No. 41-2008
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- Smith, Mike (February 20, 2014). "Butte-Silver Bow commissioners OK anti-discrimination law". Missoulian. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
- Talwani, Sanjay (December 18, 2012). "Nondiscrimination ordinance passes unanimously in Helena". Billings Gazette. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Missoulian: Keila Szpaler, "Missoula City Council makes history in adopting non-discrimination law," April 14, 2010, accessed April 14, 2011
- "Whitefish council unanimously passes nondiscrimination ordinance". NBC Montana. April 6, 2016.
- "Human Resources - Job Listings". Missoula County.
Missoula County will not refuse employment or discriminate in compensation, benefits, or the other terms, conditions and privileges of employment based upon: [...] sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression
- Human Resources Campaign: Montana Hate Crimes Law Archived 2012-03-11 at the Wayback Machine, accessed April 14, 2011
- Montana, National Center for Transgender Equality
- Montana Joins the List of States that Have Rejected Anti-Trans Discrimination
- PRRI: American Values Atlas 2017