According to a lawsuit filed today with the Fourth Judicial Court, Not My Bathroom (NMB) chairman Tei Nash, a new group dubbed “Right to Vote Missoula” and Missoula resident John Porter are accusing Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent and Missoula County Clerk and Recorder Vickie Zeier of employing “intentional and discriminatory tactics” to prevent NMB from initiating the legal process required to overturn Missoula’s new anti-discrimination ordinance.
The Missoula City Council passed the anti-discrimination ordinance April 13. It provides legal recourse to individuals discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance is the first of its kind in Montana.
After the law’s passage, NMB attempted several times to gain approval from Nugent and Zeier to begin collecting signatures, the first step NMB must take to qualify the issue for a citywide vote. Each time NMB submitted a petition to initiate the voter referendum, Nugent found flaws in the paperwork. The most glaring issue, he says, is the fact that NMB has never actually asked to repeal the ordinance, as is required under the law.
“They never would put the word, ‘repeal,’” Nugent says. “They seem to want the law to be the way they want the law to be.”
But a website hosted by Right to Vote Missoula counters:
City Attorney, Jim Nugent, has done everything to manufacture reasons not to approve the petition and allow time to gather the needed signatures. It has been really ridiculous to see how he has jumped around making things up that are not covered by the law. His statement in the first letter to the election administrator denying the form of the petition was a tip off to us just what he was going to do and what his plans were.
The city attorney maintains those claims are bunk and he’s operated completely within the law. “I always responded to Vicki within seven days and the statute gives 21 days,” Nugent says.
NMB is asking District Judge Ed McLean to hold the city and county responsible for damages, attorney fees and NMB’s time lost gathering signatures during the legal wrangling.
Nugent is allotted 20 days to respond to NMB’s lawsuit.
“This thing has a life of its own,” he says. “It will go on all year, it looks like.”