Thursday, April 8, 2010

Potty talk

Posted on Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 4:00 AM

As organizations that are dedicated to the rights, safety and full participation of women throughout Missoula and Montana, we are proud to announce our public support of the Missoula Non-Discrimination Ordinance (see “etc.,” April 1, 2010). This ordinance will protect people who live, work or visit the city of Missoula from discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations based on their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

A group called notmybathroom.com publicly opposes this ordinance, in part by circulating misleading and unfounded concerns about this ordinance’s effect on the safety and well-being of women and children. We are writing this letter to correct any misunderstanding that notmybathroom.com may have created.

The purpose of the Missoula Non-Discrimination Ordinance is to protect lesbian, gay, bi and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination within Missoula city limits, just as people of color, people of faith and other historically mistreated groups are protected under current state and federal laws. It does not alter an individual’s privacy and safety expectations when it comes to public restrooms. Notmybathroom.com’s claim that this bill will make public bathrooms, locker rooms, etc., less safe for women is a deliberate scare tactic. Any individual who enters a women’s bathroom to harass or attack women would find no protection in this ordinance. More than 130 cities and towns across the country have passed similar protections for the LGBT community, and the situations that notmybathroom.com warns of simply have not materialized. Transgender individuals who use the bathroom that is consistent with their gender identity and gender expression are no more of a threat to bathroom safety and privacy than other individuals who use public bathrooms.

As you are aware, violence against women in our society is a real issue and one that we hope policy makers and community members continue to address. Ordinances like this one, which offer protections to individuals who experience discrimination in society, help prevent violence against lesbians and transgender women.

Our organizations applaud the effort to pass this ordinance and ensure equality, dignity, fairness and safety in the Missoula community. We fully support the Missoula City Council passing this ordinance.

YWCA of Missoula

Montana Women Vote

Women’s Resource Center

Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Blue Mountain Clinic

NARAL Pro-Choice Montana

Planned Parenthood of Montana

Women’s Opportunity & Resource Development, Inc.

American Association of University Women- Montana

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