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: 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)

“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

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: “Montana is No Place for ‘Bathroom Bill'”

“The Montana Family Foundation is nothing if not persistent. The group is pushing a ballot initiative — the Montana Locker Room Privacy Act — that would ban transgender individuals from using a public restroom or locker room not designated for their gender on their birth certificate. And it would also allow people to sue the state for emotional distress if they spot a transgender individual doing so.

A similar measure was rightfully rejected earlier this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature. But the foundation has drafted a ballot initiative and recently got the go-ahead from state Attorney General Tim Fox to begin collecting the needed 25,800 signatures from at least 34 legislative districts to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.

Note to all voters: Think twice before you sign. In fact, don’t sign at all.

Many voters will be tempted to reflexively sign after hearing the hyper-emotional appeal of supporters. ‘These people’ are targeting our children. ‘These people’ are different from us. ‘These people’ can’t be trusted.

Aside from the absurdity of those claims, if passed this measure will have unintended consequences. When the state of North Carolina passed a similar ban, the economic consequences were real and significant. NCAA sports events planned for the state were cancelled. Business ventures went elsewhere. North Carolinians have been trying to repeal the bill ever since.

Montanans who sign the foundation’s version of a ‘bathroom bill’ are flirting with the same fate.

This misguided effort discriminates, pure and simple, and is a solution in search of a problem. The Family Foundation and like-minded groups seem to think transgender people are clamoring in droves to get into restrooms and locker rooms of their adopted gender, and that some sort of sexual trauma awaits us if we don’t take drastic action. Truth be told, transgender individuals use bathrooms designated for their adopted gender every day without anyone one the wiser and without incident. How is that a problem?

On those rare occasions when it might become an issue in a public school or government office, let local officials make decisions on a case-by-case basis. We do not need a state law that discriminates against a small minority and could potentially do the state economic harm.” 

Published on July 28th, 2017 by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.