ACLU of Montana Lawsuit Plays Key Role in Initiative Failure
Montana voters stood shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ community and rejected a ballot initiative intended to intimidate and harm transgender and non-binary Montanans. I-183 failed to gather the necessary 25,468 signatures to make it on the November ballot.
“Transgender and non-binary Montanans have been powerful examples of bravery and authenticity in leading the fight against I-183” said SK Rossi, Director of Advocacy and Policy for ACLU of Montana. “We anchored our campaign against I-183 in the voices of the community most impacted by this costly and unnecessary measure. And in those voices, people heard their friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers.”
I-183 sought to block transgender and non-binary Montanans from public life. The initiative would have prevented them from using public facilities that correspond with their gender identity in places such as libraries, parks, and schools. The state legislature rejected an almost identical measure in 2017.
Last July, the ACLU of Montana successfully challenged the legal sufficiency of I-183’s ballot statement. The Montana Supreme Court agreed that the statement did not accurately describe I-183’s intended and unintended consequences. The court invalidated the ballot statement, voiding “thousands of signatures” according to the initiative proponents. The campaign to legalize discrimination never recovered.
After the ballot statement was revised, the ACLU of Montana filed a lawsuit challenging I-183 as unconstitutional. Ten LGBTQ Montanans, the City of Missoula, and the City of Bozeman appeared as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. With the ballot measure failing to collect the required signatures, the ACLU of Montana will likely move to dismiss the lawsuit.
“Courts across the country have found measures like I-183 to be unconstitutional, and voters in a growing number of states have rejected similar attempts to legalize discrimination,” said Caitlin Borgmann, Executive Director. “If an effort to discriminate against LGBTQ Montanans rears its ugly head again, we will be there to fight back on behalf of the transgender and non-binary community.”
Montana joins other states that have rejected anti-LGBTQ ballot measures, including Washington and Alaska in 2017. “We are excited to celebrate with LGBTQ Montanans, allies, and the Free and Fair Montana campaign,” said Zuri Moreno, Advocacy and Policy Assistant. “There is still plenty of work to do to make Montana a fairer place. For example, the Montana Legislature should amend the Montana Human Rights Act to provide explicit protection for LGBTQ people against discrimination. The ACLU of Montana will continue to fight alongside LGBTQ Montanans and allies to ensure equality for everyone.”
The stories and experiences of the transgender and non-binary Montanans who led the defeat of I-183 can be found at Trans Visible Montana.
The ACLU of Montana’s Caitlin Borgmann (Executive Director) and Alex Rate (Legal Director) are available for interview.