Legal Wrangling Continues Over Montana 'Locker Room Privacy' Initiative

Aug 8, 2017

Montana’s Supreme Court has ordered Attorney General Tim Fox to respond to the American Civil Liberties Union’s complaint about the language of a so-called "bathroom privacy" ballot initiative.

On Monday the court gave Fox 20 days to explain why the ballot language his office wrote for the initiative being promoted by the Montana Family Foundation is fair and accurate.

The Montana ACLU says the language, “masks the true intent of the initiative – to prevent transgender individuals from using public facilities that correspond with their gender identity."

The Family Foundation tried and failed to get a bill passed in the 2017 Legislative session that bars people of one sex from using bathrooms designated for another.

In this Foundation radio update dated July 28, President Jeff Laszloffy says his organization was “shocked” when the bill failed.

"We promised immediately to bring this directly to the people for a vote, and those who know us know that we never make idle threats," Laszloffy said.

In May Laszloffy’s foundation sent proposed language to Attorney General Tim Fox, who is charged with writing non-partisan official ballot language. After Fox submitted that language to the secretary of state’s office, the ACLU asked the Supreme Court to declare that the language is legally insufficient, that any petitions supporting the issue are void, and that the issue may not appear on the ballot. Failing that, the ACLU is requesting the ballot language be revised.

A screen capture from the Montana Family Foundation website, August 8, 2017.

Now, the Supreme Court has given Attorney General Fox 20 days to offer a response justifying the ballot language he wrote.

A fiscal statement says that the State of Montana would need to spend more than half a million dollars to comply with the ballot measure should voters pass it.

You can read the proposed ballot language Attorney General Fox wrote, and the Montana ACLU’s complaint here.