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Montana Republican Pushes Anti-LGBTQ ‘Bathroom Bill’ Referendum

Nicole Knight

"This is one more attempt in a long line of attempts to discriminate against the LGBT community and specifically the transgender community," said SK Rossi, advocacy and policy director for the ACLU of Montana.

A Montana GOP lawmaker wants to put this question to the state’s voters: Do you want to force people to use public bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their “original birth certificate”?

Anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced last week by Rep. Carl Glimm (R-Kila) would ask Montana voters, via a statewide referendum, whether to ban transgender people from locker rooms, bathrooms, and changing areas in public schools, universities, and government buildings, as the Associated Press reported.

Writing the legislation as a referendum is a way to circumvent the state’s Democratic governor, who would likely veto the legislation, as the AP reported. Republicans, meanwhile, control both legislative chambers.

Montana now follows a controversial, costly, and discriminatory path laid out by GOP legislators in Texas and North Carolina, where voters overwhelming support the repeal of the widely reviled law known as HB 2, as Rewire reported. North Carolina’s Republican governor lost his reelection bid largely because of HB 2, which has cost the state upwards of $630 million in lost business, by one estimate.

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Montana is the 16th state in 2017 to introduce legislation to restrict access to bathrooms or locker rooms based on a person’s sex or gender assigned at birth, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

SK Rossi, advocacy and policy director for the ACLU of Montana, said the state’s LGBTQ community will mobilize against the measure, which seeks to exploit unfounded privacy fears.

“This is one more attempt in a long line of attempts to discriminate against the LGBT community and specifically the transgender community,” Rossi told the AP.

The Montana GOP measure defines “sex” as “determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.” The bill regards an “original birth certificate” as “definitive evidence of the person’s sex.” The legislation allows people to sue a school or public institution if they encounter “a person of the opposite sex” in the bathroom or locker room.

The bill is backed by the Montana Family Foundation, an arm of the national anti-LGBTQ organization the Family Research Council. The foundation said of the legislation, “It’s just common sense. High school girls shouldn’t have to shower next to boys.”

The legislation has not been assigned to a committee.

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