Big Sky Connection
Pride Month during June highlights the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities, which have long faced discrimination. People in these communities say they continue to face prejudice in Montana, including in finding a place to live.
Pam Bean, executive director of the nonprofit Montana Fair Housing, said LGBTQ people only recently received a major victory in housing at the federal level.
"Given the fact that it's only been a year-and-a-half that under the Fair Housing Act, it's illegal to discriminate against this population based on gender identity and sexual orientation," she said, "there's a lot of education that still needs to take place with housing providers."
A 2020 report from UCLA found LGBTQ people face significant barriers to finding housing. Young adults in this population experience homelessness at a rate more than twice that of the general public. The number is even higher for people younger than 18.
Bean has noticed that people moving from out of state may not understand some of the landlord-tenant laws in Montana or local city ordinances, and this has led to conflict at times. For instance, she spoke to one renter who hung LGBTQ Pride flags outside his residence.
"He and the housing provider ended up with a very adversarial relationship," she said, "because he didn't realize he had to get permission to be hanging things up on the exterior of the unit."
Bean said it's important to understand the laws governing housing. But she also notes that organizations such as hers can provide dispute resolution between landlords and tenants.
"We can share information with both parties and educate them in regards to the issues at hand," she said, "and hopefully reach a resolution where, particularly in this housing market, the household is able to maintain their housing."
Bean said Montana Fair Housing also can help people file administrative complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, she noted this isn't a speedy process, typically taking months or years to resolve.