Proposed voter-initiative on transgender bathroom use ready for - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Proposed voter-initiative on transgender bathroom use ready for signatures

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Jeff Laszloffy, president, MT Family Foundation Jeff Laszloffy, president, MT Family Foundation

A proposed initiative to prohibit transgender people from using the public bathroom or locker room of their choice in Montana has been approved for signature-gathering – the first step toward placing it on the 2018 Montana ballot.

If qualified for the ballot and approved by voters, Initiative 183 would require any public or school bathroom or locker room to be designated for one sex – and prohibit anyone of the opposite biological sex from using it.

“High school girls shouldn’t be forced to shower in front of a boy, even if he thinks he’s a girl,” said Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, which is sponsoring I-183. “It’s just common sense.”

Laszloffy said signature-gathering to get I-183 on the ballot will begin “at once,” and that the foundation will be forming a formal ballot-issue committee to raise money and finance the campaign.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, along with a half-dozen other organizations, will be opposing the effort and fighting I-183 if it gets on the ballot, said ACLU-Montana Executive Director Caitlin Borgmann.

“We think that the initiative is wrong because transgender individuals deserve the same protections as anyone else,” she told MTN News. “(I-183) is just discrimination that we think has no place in Montana.”

ACLU-Montana and its allies, including the Montana Human Rights Network, Planned Parenthood of Montana, Pride Foundation and Forward Montana, worked to defeat a similar proposal at the 2017 Legislature.

It takes at least 25,468 signatures from registered Montana voters to qualify an initiative for the ballot. At least 5 percent of the voters from at least 34 state House districts also must sign the petition.

Signed petitions can be turned into county election offices starting in October. Supporters of I-183 have until next June to turn in petitions.

Transgender people identify with the sex opposite from their biological sex, and have testified before the Legislature that they usually feel more comfortable using the bathroom or locker room that coincides with their self-identified sex.

For example, a man who identifies as a woman may want to use the women’s bathroom.

I-183 would prohibit that choice, in a public or school bathroom or locker room.

The measure says anyone using such a facility can sue the “governmental entity” in charge of the facility if someone from the opposite sex uses it, under certain circumstances.

For example, if the governmental entity “failed to take reasonable steps to prohibit a person of the opposite sex from using” the facility or gave a person of the opposite biological sex permission to use it, the entity could be sued for damages, under I-183.

I-183 also would allow the governmental entity to create a “single-occupancy restroom” or changing room upon someone’s request, for someone who didn’t feel comfortable using the facility designated for their biological sex.

Laszloffy said the measure “is about protecting the privacy, safety and dignity of all Montana kids.”

A similar measure introduced at the 2017 Legislature failed to get out of committee.

About Mike Dennison

MTN Chief Political Reporter Mike Dennison joined MTN News in August 2015 after a 23-year career as a newspaper reporter covering Montana politics and state government. While some may believe that politics are boring, Mike firmly believes that's not the case if you tell the story with pizzazz and let people know why the story is important.
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