Bill Seeks Voter Referendum on Transgender Bathroom Use

Republican Rep. Carl Glimm's bill was introduced Friday in the Montana House

By MATT VOLZ, Associated Press
Rep. Carl Glimm listens to discussion during the 64th Montana Legislative Session in Helena on April 23, 2015. Beacon file photo.

HELENA — A Montana lawmaker introduced a bill Friday calling for a voter referendum on whether to ban transgender people from school and public restrooms and locker rooms that don’t match their gender at birth.

The bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Carl Glimm of Kila was written with the assistance of the conservative Montana Family Foundation. It inserts Montana into a national debate over lesbian, gay and transgender people’s rights and is similar to controversial legislation that has passed or is under consideration in states like North Carolina, Arkansas and Texas.

The Montana legislation, however, would ask the voters in the 2018 general election decide whether to approve the ban.

“That way they can make the final decision, and I think they will make the right decision,” Glimm said. “We shouldn’t have boys in girls’ locker rooms.”

Introducing the bill as a referendum also means the measure, if approved by lawmakers, would bypass Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who would likely veto it.

SK Rossi, advocacy and policy director for the ACLU of Montana, said the bill seeks to exploit unfounded privacy fears and the ACLU hopes to stop it from passing the Legislature.

But if it goes to voters, the LGBT community has strong supporters in Montana who will turn out to vote against it, Rossi said.

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

Glimm’s measure says government entities with buildings that have locker rooms, restrooms, shower rooms and changing facilities must ensure that those “protected facilities” provide privacy from people of the opposite sex.

The bill defines sex as “a person’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics existing at the time of birth.”

Schools, universities and government agencies could be sued for a violation.

A hearing has not yet been scheduled on the measure.

The bill’s introduction comes on the same day as 10 states, including Montana, sought to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s direction to schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms according to their expressed gender.

The states, led by Nebraska, decided to drop the lawsuit after President Donald Trump rescinded the Obama administration’s guidance.