In this exciting summer of court win after court win, our one regret from a policy perspective is the failure of the Montana Locker Room Privacy Act to make the ballot.
First, let me thank all the churches and individuals who helped gather signatures. Some of Montana’s largest churches were involved and many individuals gathered hundreds of signatures. Sadly, in the end, it was not enough. What should have been a slam-dunk in the end came up woefully short. And we need to figure out why before the next big battle surfaces.
With at least two schools in Montana allowing boys who think they’re girls to use the girls’ restrooms and our polling showing nearly 70% of Montanans opposed to allowing people to use the locker rooms and restrooms of the opposite sex, the failure of the initiative to make the ballot left us scratching our heads.
In 2014, we gathered over 87,000 signatures to place the Montana Marriage Amendment on the ballot. This time, we were only able to gather 9,000. Clearly, something has changed. Last time, we started just four months before the deadline. This time, we began a full year in advance. In terms of money, we spent more just trying to gather signatures this time than we spent on the entire effort last time, advertising included.
So what’s the difference? What happened between 2004 and 2018? On the surface, several things. Many of the evangelical churches chose not to be involved, and the Catholic churches who played such a large role in 2004, were entirely absent this go-around. Many people called our office frustrated that they could not get their churches to get involved.
Another factor seemed to be the confusion and frustration surrounding the two ACLU lawsuits. People worked so hard last summer, only to have their signatures voided because the court decided to make some insignificant changes to the ballot statement language. Honestly, it took the wind out of everyone’s sails. When the ACLU filed their second lawsuit, people held back concerned that the court would nullify their hard work a second time.
Then there was the misinformation printed over and over by the press even after we confronted them with the facts. It was almost an attitude of, “That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.” The biggest was the threats made by the Obama administration that went away as soon as President Trump took office.
And finally, we heard anecdotally that many people were afraid. In one large church, the pastor preached on the subject and made an impassioned plea for his congregants to sign. Many would not, citing possible repercussions at work if their boss or friends found out. If this is true, then we have a far larger problem in the church than the failure of an initiative to make the ballot.
The good news is that this issue is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, probably in the Boyertown case, and by the time it gets there, Justice Kennedy’s replacement will be on the bench. We may have lost this battle here in Montana, but I predict that in the end, we’ll win the war.