Culture Education

Guest Post: Open To All – Helena Business Initiative

By JP Crowley and Karen Powell

‘Vibrant’ and ‘caring’ are just two words that describe the local shops and small businesses that help create a strong sense of community in Helena.

However vibrant and caring the Helena community feels to us, though, this has been a time of unrest and fear for some of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) friends, family, and neighbors.

As Helena residents, residential landlords, and small business owners for nearly 20 years, it is our belief that all people deserve to feel safe, valued, and affirmed in our community.

We have felt personally and professionally supported by the LGBTQ community as we have built our businesses here in Helena. We are proud to be supporters Big Sky Pride, and have deepened this relationship over the years.

Because we want to extend the same sense of vibrancy and caring to LGBTQ people, we are publically re-committing our support for fair and safe housing for our LGBTQ tenants.

Ever since we became landlords nearly 20 years ago, nervous tenants have asked about “close friends” staying at their apartments for extended periods. Time and again, they pose carefully-worded queries, seeking to explore our views on their lives and their love.

It’s no wonder that many LGBTQ tenants are fearful of acknowledging their partner or spouse—this very real fear of losing their housing stems from the fact that Montana laws still do not offer protection from discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Fair housing is critical for community members to feel safe and supported, and we hope—through word of mouth and our history of non-discrimination—that we have been a safe and welcoming place for any member of the LGBTQ community to find fair housing.

Also, as business owners, we want LGBTQ people to know that Helena businesses support who they are.

As part of our continuing efforts to make Helena a welcoming place for all, we are proud to be one of several founding business partners of the Helena Supportive Business Project—a group of Helena business owners committed to fighting and preventing discrimination against our LGBTQ community members.

Each of us can make a difference in creating an inclusive community. I hope you will join us in making Helena Open for All.

If you are interested in joining us, or would like more information, please contact Kim Leighton at Pride Foundation at [email protected]

JP Crowley and Karen Powell


More information and the Launch Event Information Below

The Open To All – Helena Business Initiative is a multi-faceted, business-driven project. The project hopes to build visibility for the LGBTQ community both patrons and employees living and visiting, elevate those businesses who support the LGBTQ community, and give businesses an opportunity to declare their support while signifying to LGBTQ people which businesses support them as human beings via a decal in the window.

We will have pledge forms available at the launch event so business owners or representatives can sign up the business and hopefully refer us to at least one other business to reach out to.  Moving forward, we’d like to build the network of supportive businesses and talk about inclusive policies such as comprehensive and inclusive non-discrimination policies for employees, the potential for gender-neutral facilities for both patrons and employees, broader definitions for family leave and benefit policies and building a network of businesses willing to sign on to potential policy changes.

Launch Event:

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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Kim Leighton

Kim Leighton is an angsty Montanan advocating for queer rights, reproductive justice, racial equity and basic decency in a world gone wrong.

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