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Coalition Launches Campaign Against Bathroom Use Initiative

A coalition of groups calls Initiative 183 discriminatory against trans and non-binary Montanans. (SmartSigns/Flickr)
A coalition of groups calls Initiative 183 discriminatory against trans and non-binary Montanans. (SmartSigns/Flickr)
April 18, 2018

BILLINGS, Mont. - A campaign opposing an initiative that restricts bathroom access for transgender Montanans launched on Tuesday in Billings.

The Free and Fair Coalition is starting "No on I-183," an initiative heading to November's ballot that would require people to use a restroom, locker room or changing room based on their sex assigned at birth. The coalition says it's discriminatory and imposes unequal treatment on trans and non-binary Montanans.

Amelia Marquez, who is running for a state House seat in Billings, said she's worried about how this initiative would affect trans teens.

"A student shouldn't have to worry about what bathroom they are allowed into, as long as they identify with whatever they identify in their gender," she said. "And so, overall it's a ballot initiative to try and take over the rights of our LGBTQ community."

A group sponsoring the initiative, the Montana Family Foundation, said it's designed to protect kids. Under I-183, individuals could sue the government if a facility violates the measure. The ACLU of Montana is attempting to block the initiative from this year's ballot with a lawsuit.

Marquez questioned how such a bill would be enforceable. As well as being discriminatory, she said, it would be costly to have the state police bathrooms. A Billings native, Marquez remembers when the city considered a non-discrimination ordinance in 2014 and said it was a sign of Montanans' welcoming nature.

"There were hundreds of people that came out in support for a fully inclusive, non-discrimination ordinance," she said. "The majority was there to support it, and so I truly believe the majority of Billings and Montanans will support our LGBT community."

Opponents of I-183 in the Free and Fair Coalition include ACLU of Montana, Montana Human Rights Network and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana.

Information on the Free and Fair Coalition is online at facebook.com, and the text of I-183 is at sos.mt.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT