Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Shawn Reagor

This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.

Photo of Shawn ReagorShawn is a fourth-generation Montanan who grew up in Great Falls and moved to Helena to attend Carroll College. At Carroll, he spent a year as the director of the pep band and studied chemistry. Shawn now works as a community organizer for the Montana Human Rights Network.

An avid outdoorsman, Shawn spends the warmer seasons snorkeling, angling, backpacking, and camping with his partner, Kasandra, and cat, Copernicus. In the wintertime, he embraces the cold and the ice with a fishing pole in hand.

Besides his love for the outdoors, Shawn also admires Montana for the quality of its people. He described, “One of the things that I really like about Montana is this interaction that we have if you need something. For example, I hit a deer not too long ago. And from the time I hit the deer, until the time the vehicle was towed and we were on our way again, we were never left alone. It was right outside of Harlowton and several people stopped, made sure we were okay, and stayed with us until the highway patrol arrived. That’s one of the things that I really like about Montana, it’s the people. We look out for each other. And I think that’s really important.”

This appreciation of community is present in each aspect of Shawn. As a community organizer and activist, Shawn has worked on nondiscrimination legislation at the state and municipal levels. If someone needs to testify on behalf of anyone’s rights and humanity, Shawn will be there. He also facilitates transgender support groups in two different cities and serves on the Pride Foundation’s Montana Leadership Action Team and the Rural Transgender Wellness Project advisory board. In 2015, Shawn was named one of Montana’s “25 Under 25” in recognition of his community contributions as a young leader.

There are many reasons why Shawn chose to be a plaintiff in the lawsuit against I-183. He explained, “I feel like I’m in a really good spot to be able to stand up for members of the trans community that can’t. My job supports me. My partner supports me. And I really want to give back to the community.”

Shawn continued, “I think part of why I feel it’s so important to be involved, is that we had a wave of suicides in the state of Montana in the trans community. And one of those people who committed suicide was a member of my support group and that hit me very hard because they were only 18. And it happened about the same time as House Bill 2 passed in North Carolina and so, I just really witnessed first-hand the impact that legislation has on people’s lives, and in our community. And I hold the community very close.”

In choosing to be a plaintiff, Shawn puts his very humanity on the line, and that’s where he thinks people should begin in addressing I-183. Shawn’s advice: “I think that, first and foremost, when we are talking about trans people, you don’t have to understand what it means to be trans to be able to respect someone. You don’t have to understand my history or where I came from or why I am the person that I am to agree that I pay taxes, I’m involved in the community, I volunteer, I go to church. And I exist as a person. And on top of that, there’s more to me than just a trans person. For example, I really like nerdy jokes. I like to go outdoors. I like to snowboard. And I like to be involved in the community in different says. So I think that’s really important.”

Shawn is 26 years old. (Preferred pronouns: he, him)

Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Reverend Micah Hartung

This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.

Photo of Reverend Micah HartungReverend Micah Hartung is a sixty-year old man who lives in Belt, Montana. He was raised 26 miles from the Montana border in Powell, Wyoming. After high school graduation, he moved to Billings to attend Eastern Montana College (now MSU-Billings) and graduated with a degree in in Communication Arts with a minor in Education.

And ever since then, Montana became Micah’s home. He explains, “It is the essence of my soul, to be a Montanan.” When he’s traveling back home after being out-of-state, Micah always honks his horn when he crosses the state line. “I hear the creek, I hear all the birds and the stuff you don’t hear in the city. So I’ll probably live and die in Montana.”

It was at a Billings Metropolitan Community Church service where Micah met his life mate, Irene Crawford, who was a founding member of Family of God Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) in Billings and a long-time proponent of justice work for the LGBTQI+ community. After receiving a Master of Divinity, Micah moved to Great Falls in 1990 and became one of the founding members of the Metropolitan Community Church.

In 1996, Micah took an MCC youth group to Montana’s first Pride March. In preparation, Micah told the congregation that if they wanted to go, they should prepare for passive resistance. “I said, you have to remember there’s a higher calling and that is the one to model what you believe we should be in our faith.”

At the march, the group was ridiculed and harassed. The youth were angry and upset at their treatment. As the youth leader, Micah recognized that healing needed to occur after the aggressive encounter. “Whenever we try to go up against hate with anger, it doesn’t work.”

In 2013, Micah’s mother and his partner Irene passed away. After spending a lifetime identifying as a lesbian, it was then that Micah began his transition to align his body with his thought and spirit and was ready to embrace his transgender identity. Micah feels like he is drawing to an end of this process and described that, “each step, from changing my name and my gender marker, has been a holy experience because of the support of all the agencies that helped me wade through all the materials and rules to finally be 100% male.”

In 2014, he retired from MCC after 34 years of ministry and service. One of Micah’s favorite passages in the Bible is Micah 6:8, “God has told me, O humanity, what is good; and what does God require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Though, as Micah reflects, “That being said, with the name sake of Micah I can do nothing more than to stand up, speak out and change the hearts and minds of humanity that are uninformed about who and what we are as LGBTQI+ people.”

Micah fears that I-183 will isolate and marginalize the transgender community, and would encourage hate and violence. After a lifetime of advocating for social justice and LGBTQI+ Montanans, Micah says, “I hope I live long enough to make a difference for trans people in this state. I hope I’m an old man some day, making a difference. I hope to do that with honor and respect.”

Micah is 60 years old. (Preferred pronouns: he, him)

Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Kasandra Reddington

This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.

Photo of Kasandra ReddingtonAt age 15, Kasandra Reddington traveled the short distance from Shepherd, Montana to enroll in courses at MSU-Billings. She would go on to graduate with a degree in psychology and concentrations in biology and neuroscience. While on campus, Kasandra threw herself into the MSU-B student community. She ran the school newspaper for a year, helped start up the Psi-Chi honors society and psychology club, volunteered at the Women and Genders Studies center, the Out Club, and was a student senator.

She describes herself as a “traditional super nerdy girl,” with a constant appetite to dig into subjects such as science, philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, and pop culture. Now at age 21, she plans to pursue a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience.

While at MSU-Billings, Kasandra was interviewed about her experiences as a transgender woman. Death threats followed. Unfortunately, “As horrible is as this is to say, it’s kind of a day in the life of a trans person to experience horrible negativity,” Kasandra explained.

Kasandra made the decision to add her name to the list of plaintiffs against I-183 because, “It’s something I can do for the current and next generations to make things easier, more normal and better. That way, they don’t have to fight for their existence like I do.”

She continued, “I-183 would directly impact me because I’m so publicly out and I so publicly go to public spaces that I risk the chance, especially in Billings, of somebody noticing me. That could result in possible sexual or physical assault against me. It could get me fired, I could lose my housing. In Helena, it’s different because we have a nondiscrimination ordinance but if I-183 passes, then I’m not protected for housing or working [by the NDO].” If I-183 passes, “I’m not allowed to be a productive member of society because of this bill.”

I-183 “directly impacts me because it then has to go to a vote, and it (that vote) shows how much other Montanans believe that I exist, or care that I exist. So it negatively impacts me emotionally and spiritually.”

“When you have a bill that directly attacks your existence, and directly attacks your security, I think it makes you feel like you can’t even go outside or be a part of the community. Peripherally, it affects me because I am a human. And I’m a part of the community and I have a lot of trans friends. It affects my partner, and my family. It affects every part of who I am. Basically, it’s an attack on my existence.”

Kasandra is 21 years old. (Preferred pronouns: she, her)

Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Ezerae Coates

This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.

Picture of Ezerae CoatesBorn and raised in Butte, Ezerae knew at a young age that she was transgender. With strong support from her mother and a Butte High School counselor, she began identifying as a girl at 13. As is the case with many children who are marked as ‘different,’ Ezerae was bullied.

After the judgements, critiques, and difficulty of the teen years, life shifted and became easier for Ezerae.

“As I got into my 20s and I really started to get comfortable with who I am I realized, it was okay [to be myself]. If someone has an issue with who I am, it’s society’s problem, it’s not my problem. I’ve become a lot more free and open. Now I educate and really talk very openly about the trans community and how being transgender is not something we woke up and decided. It’s genetic, it’s real, and it’s deep. It’s much more than a lot of us can comprehend. It’s hard to fathom being the wrong gender if you weren’t born the gender you are.”

Today, Ezerae is employed as an HIV early intervention specialist for the Butte-Silver Bow Health Department. “I love my job, absolutely. I’ve never loved a job so much in my life. Everyone I work with is amazing, and I feel like I’m making a difference in my community.” For her work, Ezerae also works with county sex educators to meet with students to talk about sex education and support LGBT youth.

She is part of a group Butte AIDS Support Services and Trinity Community Center that is working to open up a community center for LGBT youth that incorporates all of the Butte community. Ezerae also volunteers with the local Kiwanis and has helped rebuild park playgrounds and at the bike rodeo to help make sure all Butte youth have bike helmets.

In each facet of her life, Ezerae strives to serve as a community resource by providing support, compassionate listening, and doing so without judgment. When deciding to be a plaintiff against I-183, the same thread of commitment to community shaped Ezerae’s decision.

“In our media right now, we have a lot of trans people who are singers or athletes. They are not someone all our community can relate to. We need more real people to identify with that, to see different sides of transition, because there are many ways to do it and there’s no right way. Plus, life is already hard enough growing up. Our youth don’t need the pressure of society pushing them to be a certain way when that’s not who they are.”

If passed, I-183 would directly threaten Ezerae’s safety. “There’s never been misconduct by a trans person in a bathroom. There’s a lot of data that shows it’s not needed, it’s not necessary. In fact, it’s just isolating a group and targeting us worse. Being a survivor of sexual assault, I cannot fathom using a men’s room. I could barely use the boys’ locker-room in high school, which was exceptionally hard.”

Ezerae is 28 years old. (Preferred pronouns: she, her)

Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Elliott Hobaugh

This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.

Picture of Elliott HobaughElliott Hobaugh hadn’t ever visited Montana before he arrived at the University of Montana for his freshman year. This 19-year-old, originally from Chicago, made the leap with a curiosity that drives so many after graduation, to start fresh in a new town. Elliott specifically wanted to leave the big city and get to know rural America.

Missoula and UM have become a second home for Elliott, who loves waking up to mountains outside his window. Elliott is studying Psychology and Women and Gender and Sexuality Studies and is pursuing a minor in nonprofit administration, with a goal of one day opening up LGBT centers in rural parts of the country. He enjoys writing, photography, and theater.

In Chicago, Elliott was a member of the Center on Halsted, which is one of the biggest LGBT community centers in the country. Over 1,000 people walk through its doors every day. The center provided free counseling, resources, and after-school events. In Chicago, Elliott joined the About Face theatre group for LGBT youth ages 13-24.

Reflecting back on the Center, Elliott remarks that “It was a privilege for me to have that. It was definitely a big change to not have that support net at UM.” But in only two short years, Elliott has made himself into a resource for his fellow LGBT students. Besides working in the Student Involvement Network, which manages event planning on campus, Elliott volunteers with UM allies, which leads LGBT ally training, and he runs Queer Kitchen Table, organizing weekly meetings for LGBT students. He doesn’t have much free time, but when he does, Elliott uses it to find another opportunity to volunteer.

In his first year at UM, Elliott didn’t find a resource or person who could answer housing questions or help him change his Griz card and he now prioritizes giving back what he has learned to incoming students. He’s become a resource to talk to and a mentor for other LGBT students on campus.

“In being a plaintiff, I feel that if this was happening in Chicago, which is a more liberal place than Montana, I wouldn’t be as anxious.” After seeing an LGBT friend get beaten up in Missoula by bouncers with no recourse or human rights protections, the fact that Montana has never extended civil rights protections based on gender identity and sexual orientation is a new reality.

“Knowing that I live in a place where hate crimes and people in the LGBT community getting beat up isn’t seen on the same level as someone that is straight and cis, I was definitely concerned because if something did happen, there would probably be no justice for me.” After coming from Chicago, and being able to live more open and freely than most parts of Montana, Elliott feels that by serving as a plaintiff, he can make things better for future generations.

I-183 pointedly targets trans youth like Elliott. His advice? “Educate yourself. You know, Google is a great resource. Use it to learn more about what trans means, what does nonbinary mean? What are they them pronouns? What does this all mean? A great tool is just to go educate yourself online…. A lot of fear comes from not knowing, too. I think that once you educate yourself and you see that these people are just like me, and they’re not that different, you can learn a lot. A lot of ignorance comes from not knowing things.”

Elliott is 19 years old. (Pronouns: he, his)

Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Acton Sieble

This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.

Picture of Acton SiebelFor Acton Siebel, a small-engine mechanic who lives in Missoula and makes lamps and furniture on the side from reclaimed items, Montana is home.

“I get pretty romantic about it, I’m passionate about it—describing Montana. My community has always been supportive of me, even when I was struggling, even when I wasn’t the greatest person around. Even when it was hard for to find a job. Or I thought I’d lose my home. And that love that was given to me really inspires me to give that love back.”

The combination of community and outdoor opportunities ignite Acton. This summer, he kayaked through the Alberton Gorge. He called it “Exceptional. It almost feels like healing. It’s so beautiful. Have you ever seen something so beautiful, and it’s twenty minutes away from you? I consider that a complete luxury. After work, let’s just go to the river and chill out. That’s amazing.”

Rewind back to age 26, when Acton was living in Philadelphia and took time out for himself. He says, “I’d always felt like it wasn’t right. I really struggled with trying to fix myself and put myself into what I thought I was supposed to be. And it was really damaging. I hurt myself a lot just to make it through the day and maybe not feel like I was a total freak.” He moved back to Montana, began his transition, and now completely is the person he always was.

And now I-183 has surfaced. Acton reflects, “I spent a good chunk of my life worrying and living in fear about how people would perceive me as being a trans person. Living in fear that I might be hurt, that I might be raped, that I might be murdered, physically assaulted, degraded, verbally assaulted. You know there are worse things than someone calling you a nigger or a faggot. I want to point out that if I can’t live in my own community that means no one can. I’m so tired of feeling like people don’t have that option.”

And so the man who gets on fire talking about Montana is now alight to stand up for his humanity and rights in the face of I-183.

“ This is to out people who have no desire to be outed. This is to put people into harm’s way and literally force them back into—not back into the closet—but into dangerous places. This is not about people, this is about witch hunting kids. I-183 is going to out kids. You are going to make kids fear for their safety. You’re going to scare kids. That’s what this is about. You’re going to shame their parents, try and force them to reconsider, force them out of the state.”

And like all Montanans, Acton is passionate to defend his community and his home.

“The thought of someone trying to legislate my right to a public accommodation, makes me want to fight even more. First of all, I shouldn’t have to fight for my rights, my rights are granted to me as an American citizen and as a resident of the state. They want to try and legislate my physical rights away. And I won’t stand for it. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody. That’s the constant theme whenever somebody tries to take away the rights from a group of people. It’s in every history book. This is my home and I’m going to fight for it, bottom line.”

Acton is 38 years old. (Preferred pronouns: he, his)

Meet the I-183 Plaintiffs: Roberta “Bobbie” Zenker

This post is part of a series featuring the incredible group of Montanans who have stepped forward to challenge the constitutionality of I-183. To read more about the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit, click here.

Picture of Roberta "Bobbie" Zenker
Roberta “Bobbie” Zenker

Roberta “Bobbie” Zenker is a 59-year old Helena resident who works as an attorney for Disability Rights Montana. She grew up in Ohio and graduated from University of Dayton in 1980 with a degree in Photography and Fine Arts and minors in Religious Studies and English.

Thirty-seven years ago, Bobbie moved to Montana as a Jesuit Volunteer at St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana. She says, “I’ve spent more time in Montana than anywhere else on the planet, so it truly is home. It gets into your blood and soul. I don’t feel like a non-local, but I suppose technically I am.”

While in Ashland, Bobbie made many friends amongst the Northern Cheyenne and Crow with whom she remains friends today. Bobbie met and married her first spouse in Ashland and became the proud parent of two children, Meghan and Shane. Bobbie continued working at St. Labre for nine years and served as the Director of St. Labre Children’s Home until she left Ashland in the fall of 1989 to attend law school.

From 1992 through September, 2006, Bobbie served as a deputy Madison County Attorney and the Madison County Attorney. She also met and married her second spouse, Peggy Probasco, with whom she remains close friends. Bobbie then worked as an Appellate Defender for the State Office of Public Defender for three years and has spent the last eight years with Disability Rights Montana seeking to enforce the civil, legal and human rights of people who experience disability.

Service is integral to Bobbie’s life. “I’ve got a pretty firm belief that when somebody asks me to help that if I can, I should and some might even argue, I must. And service to others is a very important part of my life. I think it was the Dalai Lama who says that being of service to others is the purpose of life. That’s not always a popular sentiment in our culture today. Most people would say the purpose of my life is to be happy. So it’s important to shift that focus from being self-centered to being other-centered. Any time I have the opportunity to be of service to other people, and I can be, then I should be.”

In sum, Bobbie has been continuously working for thirty-seven years in public service for the people of Montana. And that commitment to service is what convinced Bobbie to become a plaintiff in the fight against I-183.

Besides being able and willing to serve as a face of those who would most be harmed by I-183, Bobbie explains, “I-183 challenges my integrity as a human being and makes certain assumptions about trans people that are offensive and not true. And on a much more pragmatic level, if I were compelled to use a men’s room in all public places, I would be putting myself at risk daily. Certainly for harassment, scowls, mean and untoward things and comments that someone might make—if not all-out violence. There are many cases across the country, where trans women are assaulted in restrooms. There was a case several years ago in Butte. And it becomes a matter of safety for me.”

“And on a more philosophical level, the suggestion is there is not a place in our society, in our culture, for trans people and you want to close the door to trans people. You don’t want them in public places. And what better way to do that than to say you cannot use a public restroom. So I was asked, I was invited to become a plaintiff. And I certainly believe in what we are doing, in terms of challenging an unjust piece of proposed legislation that is so demeaning and degrading and frankly, not necessary.”

Bobbie is 59 years old. (Preferred pronouns: she/her.)

“ACLU sues to block ballot initiative on transgender bathroom, locker room use”

Thom Bridge,
Thom Bridge,

HELENA — The ACLU of Montana filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of a proposed ballot initiative that would require transgender residents to use public bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sex at birth.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in District Court in Cascade County on behalf of seven transgender Montanans, the parents of a transgender 9-year-old and the city of Missoula. The Bozeman City Commission voted Monday to join the effort.

‘This proposed measure legalizes discrimination,’ said Alex Rate, legal director for the ACLU of Montana.

The ACLU and the plaintiffs argue the Locker Room Privacy Act would deprive transgender Montanans of equal protection under the law and violate their rights to privacy, dignity and due process.

The lawsuit asks the court to declare the initiative unconstitutional and to prevent Secretary of State Corey Stapleton from placing it on the November 2018 ballot.

The Montana Family Foundation is sponsoring the initiative. Foundation president Jeff Laszloffy has argued that predators claim they are transgender to access public bathrooms used by the opposite sex.

‘High school girls shouldn’t be forced to shower in front of a boy, even if he does think he’s a girl,’ Laszloffy said in a statement Tuesday. ‘Boys shouldn’t have to change clothes in front of a girl, even if she thinks she’s a boy. It’s just common sense.’

Laszloffy said Initiative 183 offers solutions such as single-stall changing facilities.

While his arguments center on locker room use, plaintiffs focused on the initiative as it would apply to public restrooms.

‘This morning, I walked down the hall and used the women’s restroom,’ transgender plaintiff Roberta Zenker told those gathered at the Capitol Rotunda. ‘It was not lost on me that if I-183 passes, I would not be able to use that restroom.’

The law would force her to use the men’s restroom and face possible harassment, humiliation and embarrassment or risk breaking the law by using the women’s restroom, she said.

‘What better way to discriminate against a class of people than to effectively exclude them from public places,’ said Zenker, who transitioned to a woman 11 years ago.

Laszloffy argued the lawsuit is premature because the initiative has not yet qualified for the ballot. Supporters have until June to gather the nearly 26,000 signatures needed.

Rate noted that in an earlier case challenging the constitutionality of a ballot measure, former Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Nelson wrote that placing a facially invalid measure on the ballot would be a waste of time and money for all involved.

The high court ruled last month that the ballot language approved for the initiative needed to be re-written because it did not include the initiative’s definition of sex and was otherwise vague.

Rate said he hoped the judge would rule before the November 2018 election.

The Montana Office of Budget and Planning estimated more than $545,000 in costs during the first four years if the initiative were to pass, accounting for renovation, construction and signs for some state departments. It also noted inventories and assessments would need to be done on more than 2,200 state-owned buildings and K-12 schools statewide.

A broader estimate put impacts from the initiative at $1 billion a year, taking in jeopardized federal funding for the Montana University System, saying at minimum $250 million annually was at risk.

The estimate did not account for the fiscal impacts to local cities and towns who would have to enforce the new law, and damages from possible lawsuits, though it said the legal reserve necessary to address claims would be $250,000 per biennium. The office called the impacts ‘an unfunded mandate on local governments.'”

Published on October 17th, 2017 via the Associated Press

Missoulian: “Let freedom flow through Montana’s bathrooms”

Last Wednesday was a bad day for civil rights in Montana and America.

It was a day that saw the president of the United States express an intention to bar transgender individuals from military service, and a day that a group of well-funded bullies got the go-ahead to pursue the persecution of a small number of Montana residents who happen to be transgender.

Yes, on the same day that President Trump tweeted that the nation’s armed forces would no longer welcome transgender service members, Montana’s secretary of state cleared a proposed ballot initiative that would make it illegal for Montanans to use the taxpayer-funded facilities of their choice, and allow people to sue for emotional or mental distress if they encounter a transgender person in a public bathroom or locker room.

It appears the president’s tweets were premature and there are no immediate plans to reinstate the ban that was lifted just last year. However, his message was clear: it’s war on transgender people.

And Montana, unfortunately, is now on the front lines thanks to the ballot initiative submitted by Jeff Laszloffy of the Montana Family Foundation, the same group that tried to push Montana’s Legislature into passing a similar law earlier this year. That effort failed, thankfully, but now the foundation is working to put its discriminatory agenda before voters in 2018.

Initiative 183 would ‘require a person using a locker room or protected facility in a government building or public school to use the facility that is designated for that person’s sex.’ In order to appear on the 2018 ballot, the initiative must earn at least 25,800 signatures representing at least 5 percent of voters from at least 34 House districts in the state.

There’s no telling how many people in Montana have never (knowingly) met a transgender individual and may harbor some misunderstandings about them, but it’s highly likely that supporters of this initiative will try to leverage those misunderstandings into fear and loathing.

The truth is, Montana doesn’t have and doesn’t need any law barring anyone, of any gender or race or religious background, from using certain public facilities. There simply isn’t a problem – but this ballot initiative could create some.

As the supporters of I-183 attempt to justify the need for such a law, we suggest that they explain to Montanans why the mother of an 18-year-old boy with severe autism should not be allowed to help her son use a public restroom – not even after checking to ensure the room is empty, not even in a private stall.

And while they are at it, tell the adult son of an 80-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s that he may not enter the women’s restroom to help guide his distressed mother out of a confusing and unfamiliar place.

Tell Montana’s law enforcement officers, attorneys and judges why they should spend any portion of their valuable time enforcing this requirement when there are so many other urgent matters demanding their attention.

The tragically misguided folks proposing this law harbor the delusion that they can ‘tell,’ at a glance, whether someone was born male or female. The reality is that they are much more likely to mistake feminine-looking men and masculine-looking women for transgender people, and subject them to the humiliation of having to produce a birth certificate to prove it – humiliation they intend only for those who are transgender.

And it would backfire. The law would require transgender men to use the women’s bathroom and the women’s shower – and transgender women to use men’s facilities – because of a single letter on their birth certificate.

As a practical matter, do we really want to require Montanans to carry birth certificates to ‘prove’ sex in order to use public facilities? And are we really prepared to pay out public dollars to individuals who sue for “emotional distress” over this issue?

Remember, North Carolina passed a similar law – and its economy has yet to recover. At last count, the state had lost out on an estimated $3.76 billion over the next 12 years.

We think Montanans have too much common sense and regard for our neighbors to enact laws that would do absolutely no good – and plenty of harm.

Perhaps, though, there’s a way to make everyone happy and put this matter to rest once and for all. In that spirit, and tongue firmly in cheek, here’s our own modest bathroom proposal: Let’s hold a statewide vote on whether those who keep trying to pass ‘bathroom bills’ should be required to do their business in outhouses from now on.

Sure, it might be inconvenient, giving up the comforts and convenience of indoor plumbing, but surely it’s a small price to pay for the iron-clad assurance of complete privacy.

The rest of us will leave our birth certificates at home and continue to make free use of Montana’s public restrooms.”

Published on July 31st, 2017 by the Missoulian