It’s petition season in Montana. Proponents of several proposed initiatives are out gathering signatures of registered voters to get their propositions on the November General Election ballot.
Initiative 183 is one that no Montanan should be willing to sign. If voted into law, I-183 would:
• Create a new claim to sue Montana and local governments (read taxpayers)
• Cause Montana to lose federal educational funding while significantly increasing costs for schools, cities, counties and state government to comply
• Affect every school and government building throughout the state
• Restrict the power of Montana charter cities and counties
• Discriminate against people because of their sexual identity
• Put Montana on a business and visitor blacklist like North Carolina was in 2016, so tourists, major companies, sports organizations and conventions would boycott us based on our discriminatory state law. The North Carolina bathroom bill cost that state $3.7 billion, according to an estimate calculated by the Associated Press.
I-183 would apply to every public building of state and local government, every public school, every Montana University System facility and every community college building to restrict who can use all restrooms, shower rooms, changing areas and locker rooms.
I-183 defines sex as “a person’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.” It would require a transgender man who lives and dresses as a man to use restrooms designated for women. It would require transgender women who live and look like typical women to use the men’s room. How would this absurd law be enforced? We don’t know. Nobody carries a birth certificate to the restroom.
This initiative drive started last year after the Montana Legislature killed a bill that would have discriminated against transgender individuals by attempting to bar transgender women from women’s restrooms and forbidding transgender men from using men’s restrooms. The bill died in committee after many Montanans voiced opposition and concern that such a discriminatory law would be bad for the state’s tourism business.
Similar bathroom bills have been proposed in several other states, but seeing the damage it did to North Carolina — which repealed most of its law — no other state has jumped off that cliff. Montana should avoid the terribly costly mistake North Carolina made in 2016.
Elsewhere on this page, the author of I-183, Jeff Laszloffy, argues that Montana needs his “locker room” law, but he fails to cite any Montana problem to justify it. Also on this page, a Montana mother tells a personal story of struggling to protect her non-binary child from discrimination. The Gazette encourages voters to read these opinions and to carefully read the I-183 ballot language, which is on petitions, posted at the Montana Secretary of State website and at billingsgazette.com with this Gazette opinion.
Initiative 183 is an affront to the dignity, peace and privacy of all Montanans. As Rep. Kathy Kelker of Billings has said: “It’s unnecessary, unenforceable and economically dangerous.”
Don’t sign an I-183 petition. Just say no.