Montana Governor Signs Executive Order Protecting LGBT State Employees

By Adam Polaski • January 19, 2016 • 11:38 am

On January 18, 2016, Montana Governor Steve Bullock issued an executive order that protects state employees and government contractors from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Previously in Montana, state employees were protected from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, per a previous executive order. The order takes effect immediately.


In the order, Governor Bullock outlines the many reasons why it is vital to protect LGBT people from discrimination, including:

  • “Montana is a place that welcomes all people and recognizes the value of diversity.”
  • “Four of Montana’s largest communities have taken steps to expand workplace, housing, and public accommodation protections for LGBT residents and visitors.”
  • “Montana is likely to face a worker shortage over the next decade, and this shortage will be exacerbated by discrimination that drives away talented and trained workers who want to live in a place where they are free from discrimination and harassment.”

The executive order marks a significant step forward – and signals growing momentum across the country for comprehensive federal non-discrimination – but despite the step forward, in Montana (and in nearly 30 other states), LGBT people have no state-wide non-discrimination protections.

Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe said today:

Governor Bullock’s executive order sends a powerful message that Montana is a welcoming place for LGBT people to work and thrive. By specifically adding protections for transgender people, the governor joins a growing number of Americans who believe people who are transgender should be treated fairly and equally in all aspects of life. Employees should be judged solely on their job performance and work ethic, not who they are or who they love. The legislature should take the final step and codify these protections permanently in state law. – Matt McTighe, Executive Director

Governor Bullock’s announcement follows a long history of executive orders from state governors extending non-discrimination protections to LGBT state employees and contractors, including in Pennsylvania, Alaska, Kentucky, and most recently in Louisiana.

These executive orders send a strong message that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender public employees should be treated fairly and equally – and they mark an important step forward in states without statewide non-discrimination protections. However, these orders do not carry the weight of the law, and their impact is limited to public employees – and moreover, they are limited to the tenure of the governor who took action. Just last year, for example, Governor Brownback in Kansas allowed an LGBT-inclusive executive order to expire.  Therefore, it is critical that state legislators in each of these states with LGBT non-discrimination executive orders codify these protections through state law.

Learn more about where non-discrimination laws stand in the states here.


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