HELENA — June is celebrated as Pride Month across the United States, but for decades, same-sex relationships in Montana were considered illegal due Montana law. That was until six plaintiffs filed a suit in 1993 to have the law declared unconstitutional; it would take years for the case to wind its way through the courts before it was settled in 1997.
"We were illegal, and how this law was used was not used to lock people up. it was used by somebody who had a complaint about discrimination or any mistreatment. it's, oh, you're admitting to a felony, and so it was very important to get this law declared unconstitutional on and off the books," said Linda Gryczan, lead plaintiff in Gryczan v. Montana, a Montana Supreme Court case to declare Montana Code 45-5-505 discriminatory.
The statute stated that "deviate sexual conduct" between two people of the same sex or causes another to engage in deviate relations commits the offense of deviate sexual conduct, and people found guilty faced as much as ten years in prison and fines up to $50,000.
It would be another 18 years before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage.
“You know those things couldn’t have happened if it wasn't for the work of the people before us,” said Stacey Haugland, another plaintiff in the case.
Now, Haugland and her wife marvel at the growth of the movement, even in places like Salt Lake City, which they recently visited for Pride Month.
"To go from that to all these people with children, and all these children with supportive parents, it is remarkable, it is really lovely, " said Haugland.
Gryzcan and Haugland are looking to the next generation and the future of the movement.
"I'm thrilled with what the younglings have come up with. I am in this until we use up every letter in the alphabet, LGBTQ Inter-sex, Two-Spirit, and whatever else the next generation comes up with," said Haugland.