A Montana story: ‘I do not rent to your kind’

Update: Join Montanans in Support of LGBTQ Equality at the LGBTQ Lobby Day on Monday, February 20th in Helena at the Capitol


By Kathleen O’Donnell

As printed in the Billings Gazette

When I was 17, I joined the Army National Guard. I completed basic training before the end of high school and by 2009, I began my service. I am proud to be an American, I am proud to have served my country, and I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQ community. Marrying my wife was the happiest day of my life. Our love would prove to be a haven of safety and comfort, and necessary to survive the pain of the experiences to come.

In 2014, my wife, 6-year-old son, and I moved from Great Falls to Billings to be close to our giant Irish-Catholic family. I was tasked with the responsibility of finding a home for us to rent. I arrived at an open house and, after a tour, asked the landlord for an application. The landlord looked at me reluctantly and asked who else would be joining me, and whether my fiancée was a girl or a boy. Upon hearing “girl,” the landlord looked me directly in the eye and promptly said, “I do not rent to your kind.”

Confusion, anger, and sadness raced through my head. What exactly is “my kind”? To me, “my kind” is a good person with a stable job and excellent rental history in search for a home for her family. “My kind’” has a history of being actively involved in her community, volunteering for Little League and helping out in the schools. “My kind” raised her right hand and served her country with pride and sacrifice. I couldn’t believe that this was even legal. There was nothing I could do, no policy that existed that would give me the support to stand up to someone who had treated me with such prejudice and disrespect. All because of who I loved.

I began to heal. I took a position at a car dealership and was quickly promoted for excellent performance, working long hours and clearly exceeding my sales goals. In spite of my hard work, I was approached by the manager who, with tears in his eyes, said “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I was told I had to fire you.” He admitted that the new owner and his son “did not like me,” and that I was to be terminated before Monday, before the end of my six-month probationary period. I asked him why they didn’t like me. “Because you are gay,” he said.

Just like that, my family lost income for three months. Because of two powerful people’s bitter and ignorant judgment, my wife and son had to suffer. My hope in sharing my story is that I can put a face and a voice to those affected and hurt by the lack of protection against discrimination for LGBTQ people. We, like every other Montanan, deserve to be judged by the content of our character, rather than who we love.

Kathleen O’Donnell lives in Laurel. Her uncle is Rep. Kelly McCarthy of Billings.


McCarthy introduced a statewide non-discrimination bill to prevent discrimination against the LGBTQ community in renting, employment, and public accommodation.

The bill is HB 417. Read it here.

Good job Representative McCarthy!

Find his campaign for Congress on Facebook.



6 Comments on "A Montana story: ‘I do not rent to your kind’"

  1. This is so sad. Why are so many people so hateful? What has happened to love your neighbor? I am getting so weary of all bigotry.

  2. ………that is so outrageous! I was born and raised in Montana, but I still cannot believe that this is the norm.

  3. I feel your pain. As a latina woman I have suffered the discrimination. It is painful. I as a human would do all I could to help my fellow man/woman. There is no justification for this type of hate against anyone..One of the reasons I no longer identify as a Christian. Too much hypocrisy.

  4. A very revealing survey by YouGuv showed that 50% of Americans believe that disliking an entire group of people (Muslims, LGBT, women, blacks, etc.) does not make one a bad person. And 25% do not think such views are even prejudice. It will take hundreds of years to change such views, if ever. All based on ignorance.

  5. I would love to know the name of the car dealership. I would not do business with them-ever.

  6. You have my total empathy. What happened to you sucks. But also, welcome to the thriving world of LGBT discrimination. Many LGBT have been OUT for over 40 years, marching, advocating, and educating. I myself have been fired several times for “being gay.” I have also been denied housing, denied wedding cake by “christian” bakers, harassed by police, with lesbian friends told to leave a restaurant, denied healthcare, and on and on.

    Unfortunately it seems that until individuals experience it for themselves, many people, and maybe even you b4 this happened, would say “Oh, come on now, you must have done something wrong.” Blaming the victim over and over.

    I tell my story as often as I can. I now live in poverty (with brand new bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate), unemployed three years now. Sometimes I have healthcare, sometimes not. Screwed by the IRS which advantages certain family arrangements over others. No retirement $. Living in “liberal” Illinois, penny to penny just to survive. One must work to survive but can’t get hired b/c of being OPENLY (or perceived to be) LGBT. It is a vicious catch-22 that can force one to stare into a dark abyss of despair.

    Luckily, you have social media and a powerful uncle. Most of the rest of us do not have the latter. Getting a law is a great first step, it grants access to the courts. But, it usually just drives the discrimination underground. and, depending on the court, very difficult to prosecute. Thank you for your adding your story to the MILLIONS of other stories of discrimination from marginalized groups (AAs, First Nations, PWDs, formerly incarcerated,undocumented, and on and on.).

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