HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana election officials on Wednesday allowed a conservative group to move forward with a proposed ballot initiative that would let people sue for emotional or mental distress if they spot a transgender person using a public bathroom that doesn't correspond to their gender at birth.
The decision on the measure came the same day that President Donald Trump announced he wanted to ban transgender people from the military.
The proposal in Montana would require people to use public restrooms and locker rooms designated for the gender listed on their birth certificate in schools, universities and government buildings, similar to a law passed by North Carolina and legislation being pushed by Republican Texas lawmakers.
The ACLU of Montana and other opponents of the measure say it violates anti-discrimination laws and would lead to economic losses similar to those North Carolina experienced.
The Montana initiative is sponsored by the Montana Family Foundation, which tried and failed to push a similar measure through the Republican-led Legislature earlier this year. Undeterred, the group's president and CEO vowed to take the issue to the people in the 2018 elections.
"High school girls shouldn't be forced to shower in front of a boy, even if he thinks he's a girl," Laszloffy said in a statement announcing the beginning of signature-gathering efforts.
The measure passed a legal review by Attorney General Tim Fox. Now, Laszloffy and his group must collect more than 25,800 signatures from at least 34 legislative districts to qualify for the 2018 general election.
If a person encounters someone of the opposite sex in a public restroom, locker room, shower room or changing room, the measure would allow that person to sue the government agency that houses it for emotional and mental distress.
This story has been updated to correct the number of signatures needed to place the initiative on the 2018 ballot.