An organization called NotMyBathroom.com announced this week its opposition to a city ordinance that would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Web site notes 17 affiliated groups but spokesman Dallas Erickson of Stevensville said most of the entities would remain nameless this week.
"We probably won't talk about names because some of them don't want their names revealed," Erickson said.
Erickson represents HOME - Help Our Moral Environment - and has long opposed obscenity and pornography in Montana. He said HOME counts 3,000 members statewide.
So far, the only other group willing to identify itself as affiliated with NotMyBathroom.com is Concerned Women For America, said Erickson. CWA representatives already have come out against the proposed ordinance.
Slated for a public hearing April 12, the legislation would ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered folks in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations, such as restaurants and hotels. It's similar to some 130 such ordinances across the country that protect people based on "actual or perceived ... sexual orientation, gender identity or expression," but it would break new ground in Montana.
In a news release available at MissoulaRedTape.com, NotMyBathroom.com notes a lengthy list of concerns with the ordinance. The group fears the law would create "a government assigned sex," cost businesses money "to provide toilet facilities," and possibly "force ministers to perform homosexual marriages."
But NotMyBathroom.com chairman Tei Nash said the chief concern is the safety of women and children in public restrooms. He said the ordinance would give a man who "is female affirmed" the freedom to use women's restrooms.
"When he walks into the bathroom, you can't stop them," Nash said. "Is that going to surprise you and the kids? It probably is. Most women will be frightened to no end. Kids, too. They won't understand."
The argument seems to rest in part on the notion some predatory men are waiting for such an ordinance so they can attack women in bathrooms. Nash, though, said culprits will use the law as a cover and business owners won't be able to stop them.
"I don't mind saying this. It's not so much trans people. It's sexual offenders," Nash said. "This has already happened in Portland, and it's happened in Florida."
Laws protect people against sexual crimes, but Erickson also said he fears for people in the Bitterroot who come to Missoula and have to use bathrooms. Society should maintain the standard that people are born a man or a woman, he said.
"If you've got a peeping Tom that likes to see how the other side lives, all they have to do is say they're a woman today," Erickson said.
In an earlier interview, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Council said concerns about bathrooms often arise when cities and counties consider such laws. The HRC is a national organization working on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights.
State legislative director Sarah Warbelow said the common question goes like this: "What bathrooms are people who are trans going to use?"
Warbelow said some people try to instill fear in others and say such ordinances are dangerous because men will use women's bathrooms. But she said no one is saying it's OK for a man who is straight and a predator to go into female bathrooms.
"Transgender" includes people transitioning from female to male or male to female, and it also includes people who identify as "gender queer" - folks who don't identify by gender.
"Trans individuals try to use the restrooms in which they feel safest," Warbelow said earlier.
The Montana Human Rights Network is the lead organization backing the ordinance. Network organizer Jamee Greer said the law is meant to protect people against discrimination, and some things won't change.
"There are already transgender people using our bathrooms," Greer said. "This is not new."
He also said the ordinance does not require businesses to offer new unisex bathrooms or third bathrooms.
NotMyBathroom.com notes concerns beyond restroom safety as well, and Erickson said freedom is one overarching issue. He said landlords who rent out an apartment in their home should be able to decide on their tenant.
"You can either give the freedom to the people who rent apartments ... or you can take it away from them and give it to the gays," Erickson said.
The Web site also notes classes of people the ordinance doesn't protect, including "the homeless, fat people, skinny people, smart people, dumb people, foster children and the list could go on and on for pages."
Ordinance opponents note hardship for businesses as one outcome, but the proposal has yet to make waves among at least one business group.
Missoula Area Chamber of Commerce spokesman Gary Bakke said so far the Chamber has only a minor question related to sign postings the ordinance requires. Just a couple of Chamber members have called with questions about the proposal.
"We don't have any opinion and we're not taking a position on it," Bakke said. "We're letting the system kind of work itself."
He attended a council committee meeting Thursday where three ministers spoke in favor of the ordinance. Bakke said the Chamber board will take up the matter at its next meeting.
Chairman Nash said he is working to educate City Council members about the consequences the law will have on businesses and the infringement on freedoms. He was out of town Thursday but said he will provide a list of the groups affiliated with NotMyBathroom.com he is back in Missoula next week and able to access related documents.
Nash said he expects a full house at the public hearing April 12 in Missoula City Council Chambers.
"This is an unneeded and an unsafe move solely to push the agenda of the homosexuals and those who are confused about their gender," reads the news release. "We invite the public to get involved now and resist this egregious law."