Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent yesterday nixed a third attempt by Not My Bathroom (NMB) to begin the process of overturning the city’s new anti-discrimination ordinance.
“They’ve gradually been improving," Nugent says of the latest failed sample petition. "But they don’t go all the way for some reason."
Despite NMB’s efforts, the law, which provides legal recourse to individuals discriminated against based on sexual orientation or gender identification, goes into effect today.
Nugent says it appears NMB found a city resident to get the process rolling this time around. The lack of one had been a primary sticking point, as NMB Chairman Tei Nash, who lives outside city limits, signed his name to the first two attempts to initiate the referendum only to be shot down by Nugent, who maintains a city resident must start the process.
According to the Missoula County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, John Porter submitted the petition late Friday afternoon. Voting records indicate Porter is a municipal resident.
Even so, Nugent again cites flaws in NMB’s paperwork. A primary problem, the city attorney says, is the fact that the group still never actually asks to repeal the law.
Petition wording is confusing, too, and hasn’t been adapted to fit a municipal referendum, Nugent says. For instance, the paperwork refers to Montana electors, rather than Missoula voters.
“I’m trying to make the point that this is only a city referendum,” he says. “It’s misleading to say Montana electors can sign it.”
It remains to be seen if the city will approve the fourth motion to initiate a referendum, which may come today, Nugent says. If the city attorney does give the thumbs up, NMB must gather 6,395 signatures within 60 days of the ordinance's April 13 passage to freeze it and qualify the issue for next year’s ballot.
“I think it’s very well possible with the primary election,” Nugent says. “They could conceivably get their 6,395 signatures.”
Here's a copy (PDF) of Nugent's letter regarding the most recent sample petition.