Fair is Fair Tour: Missoula, Kalispell, Great Falls

MISSOULA

Fun facts about Missoula! -The name "Missoula" comes from the Salish name for the area, "Nemissoolatakoo."

-Jeannette Rankin, born in Missoula, MT, became the first woman to serve in Congress in 1917.

-The first luge run in North America was built at Lolo Hot Springs on Lolo Pass, just south of Missoula, in 1965.

ACLU's Ninia talks about our organizing efforts in Missoula

(Footage by Marilyn, no professionals were harmed in the making of this film.)

Loons and famous people of Missoula: -North of Missoula is the largest population of nesting common loons in the western United States.

-In his novel, A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean wrote that "The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana."

-David Lynch and Dana Carvey are from Missoula.

Gil and Marilyn spent a rich afternoon with Eden and Claude at their Pinewood Studios in Missoula. See excerpts from Eden's interview and some fun with "RESPECT" on the tour film.

Two days before, Eden's son Ben was very excited to meet Gil, someone who had worked with Martin Luther King Jr.

THEN WE WERE OFF TO KALISPELL

What about Kalispell? -The name Kalispell is a Salish word meaning "flat land above the lake"

-Flathead Lake, just south of Kalispell, is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes.

-L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology lived in Kalispell.

Ninia on meetings in Kalispell

TO GREAT FALLS

Fun facts! -Great Falls is the third largest city in the state with a metropolitan area of 81,327 .

-At the Rocky Mountain Front Eagle Migration Area west of Great Falls more golden eagles have been seen in a single day than anywhere else in the country.

-One of the first films ever taken of a UFO occurred in August 1950 in Great Falls when Nicholas "Nick" Mariana, the general manager of the Great Falls "Electrics" minor-league baseball team saw two silvery orbs fly over the baseball stadium.

Reflections on Great Falls by Marilyn We arrived in Great Falls on the morning of September 24th. As in the other cities, we were gratified by the turnout for the event held at the Great Falls Public Library. There were a variety of faith communities represented and a strong showing from the local PFLAG chapter. As we did at the other tour events, Gil led off by talking about the influences on his commitment to justice issues, experience during the Civil Rights Movement, support of the LGBT equality movement, and how he talks about the comparisons people make of the two movements. He then turned it over to me to talk more about these comparisons. One of my points was about "passing," that African American people cannot hide the color of their skin whereas many LGBT people can chose whether or not to identify themselves as such (though we don't recommend staying in the closet and the life-draining consequences of such secrecy). This difference in discernible identity changes when and how one experiences bigotry and prejudice.

While I was talking about this, I realized that besides the matter of the closet, not being readily visible can make it hard for us to find each other, especially in a state with many rural areas and little visibility of LGBT community gathering places. This is especially hard for young LGBT people who can feel so isolated, and no one around them would necessarily know what was going on with them. Because so many churches have been so vocal about their discrimination of LGBT people, a youth would be less likely to seek help from their faith community, a place that before might have been a source of strength. This reality is especially important for churches to know. Unless they have a clear strong visible vocal and written statement of welcome to all people, including all sexual orientations and gender identities, the general assumption will be that a church is not welcoming.

The added rub is that if a church is welcoming but is not actively seeking to change discriminatory policies of their denomination, they are inviting LGBT people into an abusive situation. What happens when one wants to be ordained or get married? If the church is not working to change exclusionary policies, then it is supporting the exclusion. Silence is a choice. And how can one say with any kind of integrity if one is not fighting inequality, "You are welcome to be a part of our church. However you will also be a part of a national/international denomination that says your sexual/gender identity is wrong, you cannot be ordained unless you are silent about your sexuality nor can you be married to a cherished one in the church." We worry about bullies in schools. The sad fact is those teenage bullies are learning their behavior somewhere. It could be said that the church is a bully, that the voting majority that sets laws to exclude same-sex couples are bullies. What are the messages that are broadcasted every day to these young people and to the larger community?

The upside for faith communities is that they can make a tremendous difference, can have a huge life-giving faith-enhancing impact. When a faith community opens its door, lives, and hearts to all people, especially those who are isolated and suffering, everyone's life is expanded. The circle of faith and love is widened and enriched. It really can be a win-win, not a fear-lose.

The connection between about the invisibility of passing and the church's need for visible welcome had occurred to me quite the same way before. I hope it was as helpful to those who were present as it was to me. Thank you, Great Falls community, for what you are doing to bring people together and break down the barriers to full equality for all people!

Last of the fun facts. -Great Falls takes its name from the series of five waterfalls in close proximity along the upper Missouri River basin that the Lewis and Clark Expedition had to portage around over a ten mile stretch; the effort required 31 days of arduous labor during the westward leg of their 1805-06 exploration of the Louisiana Purchase and to the Pacific Northwest Coast of the Oregon Country.

-The Roe River, claimed to be the world's shortest river, is located in Great Falls.

For more information on becoming a welcoming church, go to Institute for Welcoming Resources. Click here to find out more about The Shower of Stoles Project (stole image above is from their exhibition).