22,300 LGBT People in Montana Lack Statewide Protections from Ongoing Discrimination

For Immediate Release:
September 12, 2017

Media Contact:
Rachel Dowd
dowd@law.ucla.edu
(310) 206-8982

22,300 LGBT People in Montana Lack Statewide Protections from Ongoing Discrimination

Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s existing non-discrimination law would protect LGBT residents and would not be costly or burdensome for the state to enforce

LOS ANGELES — Approximately 22,300 LGBT people in Montana are vulnerable to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

The report, titled Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Montana, by Christy Mallory, State & Local Policy Director, and Brad Sears, David Sanders Distinguished Scholar, found that only 26 percent of Montana’s adult population is covered by an executive order and local non-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. This report is part of the Williams Institute’s ongoing examination of the 28 US states that do not include sexual orientation and gender identity in their statewide non-discrimination laws.

Currently, Montana’s statewide non-discrimination law, the Montana Human Rights Act, protects people from discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and other personal characteristics, but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. Without a statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT people in Montana are vulnerable to discrimination and experience economic disparities.

“Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Montana Human Rights Act would protect tens of thousands of LGBT people in Montana from discrimination without burdening the courts or state agencies,” said State & Local Policy Director Christy Mallory. “Our research indicates that there would be only a handful of new complaints each year, and the existing enforcement system could absorb these complaints without the need for additional staff or resources.”

Key findings from the report include

LGBT people in Montana report discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other settings.

– A survey of Montana State University students found that 26 percent of LGBTQ students said they had been harassed in classrooms, and 53 percent felt that they had to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid harassment or discrimination.

– A 2014 survey by the State of Montana found that 21 percent of Montana residents, including LGBT and non-LGBT residents, had witnessed housing discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 14 percent had witnessed housing discrimination based on gender identity.

– Aggregated data from two large public opinion polls conducted in 2011 and 2013 found that 79 percent of Montana residents thought LGBT people experienced discrimination in the state.

– Reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Montana have appeared in administrative complaints, testimony before the state legislature, and the media.

LGBT people in Montana experience socioeconomic disparities.

– 37 percent of LGBT adults in Montana reported having an annual household income below $24,000 compared to 21 percent of non-LGBT adults.

– 39 percent of LGBT adults in Montana reported that they do not have enough money for food compared to 13 percent of non-LGBT adults.

– 33 percent of LGBT adults in Montana reported not having enough money to meet their health care needs compared to 16 percent of non-LGBT adults.

– Research has linked socioeconomic disparities for LGBT people to a lack of legal protections from discrimination and less supportive social attitudes toward LGBT people.

The state executive branch, local governments, private employers, and public universities in Montana have made efforts to prevent discrimination and harassment, but coverage is incomplete.

– Over 26 percent of Montana’s workforce is protected from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under an executive order that protects state government workers from discrimination and local non-discrimination ordinances.

– Approximately 18 percent of the state’s adult population is covered by local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing and public places.

– At least half of the 20 largest private sector employers in Montana prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and the Montana University system prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity throughout its 16 public colleges and universities. However, these policies are limited in scope and do not provide the same enforcement mechanisms as statewide non-discrimination laws.

Public opinion in Montana supports the passage of non-discrimination protections for LGBT people.

– In a 2011 national poll, 76 percent of Montana respondents said Congress should pass a federal law to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

– A 2008 poll of Montana residents found that 58 percent supported extending the state’s non-discrimination law to protect gay and lesbian people.

A statewide law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Montana would not be administratively burdensome or costly to enforce.  

– Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s non-discrimination law would result in about 10 additional complaints being filed with the Montana Human Rights Bureau each year.

– The cost of handling the additional complaints could likely be absorbed into the existing enforcement system with no need for additional staff or financial resources.

Full Report

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