Fort Peck Tribe mirrors transgender bathroom policy after North

Fort Peck Tribe mirrors transgender bathroom policy after North Carolina law

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The Fort Peck Tribe has mirrored its policy after that of NC (Crazy Horse Memorial) The Fort Peck Tribe has mirrored its policy after that of NC (Crazy Horse Memorial)
The motion carried with a 9-1 vote (MTN News) The motion carried with a 9-1 vote (MTN News)

Tribal leaders of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation have adopted a transgender bathroom policy that mirrors the controversial bill in North Carolina recently opposed by President Obama.

With a majority vote in favor, the tribal executive board approved a policy Monday that requires people use the bathroom according to the gender on their birth certificate, not the gender they identify as.

According to the motion, which was carried, the tribe will mirror its policy after the language used by the state of North Carolina.

The policy was approved by nine council members and denied by one. Two members of the council were not present for the vote.

Opponents of the policy call it discriminatory toward transgender people.

Councilman Ed Bauer, who seconded the initial motion, was recorded in the meeting minutes as saying, “What people do in their bedrooms is their business. How public bathrooms are used is (my) business.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Bauer said the policy is not new but rather clarifies the Tribe’s ongoing stance on the issue of public bathrooms.

Obama issued a recommendation earlier in May that ordered public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

The recommendation puts federally funded education institutions in jeopardy of losing grant money if the do not comply.

This recommendation is the main reason the tribe has decided to act and pronounce a defined policy, according to Bauer.

“We disagreed with the president’s mandate,” said Bauer. “We don’t have trouble with it in regards to transgender or gay people. We just have a problem with male adults using bathrooms with young girls.”

ACLU Montana Executive Director Caitlin Borgmann said that unnecessary and unfounded fear of dangerous situations between men and children are troubling.

“I’m very sad and disappointed that, even after seeing the developments with the North Carolina law, the tribe is still moving ahead with this,” said Borgmann.

Borgmann said the ACLU very much opposes any law that discriminates against transgender people and the bathroom bill is one such law, she said.

“It promotes exclusion,” said Borgmann.

But Bauer disagreed, pointing to incidents like the death of 1-year-old Kenzley Olson who was allegedly beaten to death by a female Poplar resident.

“We have enough problems here with death and drugs, so maybe we’re just a little protective,” said Bauer. “I’m more concerned with being physically correct and protecting our children than being politically correct.”

Bauer said there were very few transgender people on the reservation, which has a population of roughly 6,000 people, and that this was not a big issue.

To the ACLU, though, the issue is of the utmost importance.

Borgmann said she planned to meet with tribal leaders and attempt to persuade them to reconsider the policy.

“If it stands, we will think about our options,” said Borgmann.

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