One of the most frustrating things for a lobbyist is to spend months working on a bill, lining up testimony, answering a myriad of questions, receiving commitments from legislators, then having those same legislators suddenly go south and switch their votes, especially when they told you 15 minutes beforehand that they were still solid. Yet, that’s exactly what happened yesterday when the House Judiciary Committee killed the Montana Locker Room Privacy Act.
As you may recall, the Montana Family Foundation has been opposing efforts for the past two years by the Montana School Boards Association, the Montana High School Association and the Obama administration to allow people to use restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms that align with their self-perceived gender identity. In plain English, that means allowing a boy or man who thinks he’s a girl to use the facilities that are designated for girls only. And it goes further than that. The Obama directive told high schools and universities that they had to allow boys who think they’re girls to live in girls’ dorms and stay in hotel rooms with female athletes if they choose to compete on a sports team that travels.
Just last week, a lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania by the parents of several high school boys who objected to a girl changing in their locker room. Rather than receiving sympathy from the school, the boys were given two options: either change with the girl and pretend that it’s normal; or go home and be home-schooled.
During testimony on the Locker Room Privacy Act, the thing that I found most interesting was the other side’s complete lack of concern for how their desire to use the other sex’s facilities might affect other people. We heard testimony from students whose younger siblings’ swim teams practice at a Montana university and change in the locker room, thus setting up the potential for a 9-year-old girl to encounter a 20-year-old college student who thinks he’s a girl. “Not our problem,” says the other side. Or the college co-ed who encountered a man in her college dormitory shower room and had to hide in a bathroom stall until he left. And single-stall facilities are not an acceptable solution, according to the other side. They want to be able to express themselves freely, regardless of how it effects those around them.
One of the big arguments against the bill was how it might affect Montana’s economy if musicians and sports teams decide not to come here, to which we respond, “Who cares?” It’s time to say with one loud voice, “We can’t be bought. Our daughters’ safety, privacy and dignity are not for sale.” When the vote on the bill was finally taken, four Republicans went south, along with all committee Democrats. They were Representatives Dale Mortensen of Billings, Kirk Waggoner of Clancy and Casey Knudsen of Malta. Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway of Great Falls abstained.
The bill may have died, but this issue is too important to walk away from. We’re now making plans to gather the necessary signatures to put the issue on the ballot in 2018. According to our polling, the people of Montana oppose, by huge margins, the idea that their high school daughter should be forced to shower with a guy, even if he does believe he’s a girl. If you or your church would like to help gather signatures, please go to our website at
montanafamily.org. The legislature may have killed the bill, but the voters of Montana will have the final say.