City Attorney Jim Nugent is scratching his head trying to figure out why Not My Bathroom (NMB) Chairman Tei Nash again submitted a petition to overturn Missoula's newly approved anti-discrimination ordinance. Nugent already told Nash once that he's ineligible to do so because he's not a city resident.
"If they really want to get going with this, why don't they just submit a city resident?" Nugent asks. "I don't know why they won't change that. It's really odd."
Nash initially submitted a petition aiming to put the issue before voters days after City Council approved the ordinance three weeks ago. The new law provides legal recourse to individuals discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identification.
But Nugent refused to sign off on the petition paperwork, citing a variety of legal problems with the application, including the fact that Nash lives in the Miller Creek area, outside city limits.
Nash submitted the second petition last week. Nash was unavailable for comment before press time, but outspoken NMB leader Dallas Erickson, who lives in Stevensville, said his group doesn't buy Nugent's legal rationale and intends to stand its ground.
"We have a total disagreement on how the law reads," Erickson says. "The law does not address at all who submits the petition or who circulates it...We'll go to court if we have to."
Petition approval constitutes one of several steps NMB must take before putting the law up for a citywide vote. And as Nugent again reviews the paperwork, he says many of the issues that caused him to nix the original petition remain. For instance, NMB never actually requests a repeal of the law.
"It doesn't make any sense," Nugent says.
Should Nugent unexpectedly give the thumbs up, NMB would have to gather 6,395 signatures within 60 days of the ordinance's passage on April 13 to freeze it and qualify the issue for next year's ballot. If NMB succeeds, the vote would likely happen Sept. 13, 2011, during the Missoula municipal primary election.
"What's wrong with giving the people a right to vote?" Erickson asks.