Transgender youth, their families, and health care providers have filed a lawsuit challenging Montana’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors.
The ban, which Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law in April and which takes effect October 1, violates the Montana constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, due process, privacy, dignity, and the right to seek medical care, the lawsuit says. It was filed Tuesday in the Fourth Judicial District Court in Missoula County, a state-level court in Montana.
The law, Senate Bill 99, bans gender-affirming treatments for people under 18, including puberty blockers, hormones, and surgeries if done for the purpose of gender transition; they’re allowed for young people who have a disorder of sexual development. Genital surgeries are almost never performed on minors. It also bans the promotion of gender transition, including social as well as medical transition, apparently the first law to cover social transition.
Health care professionals who violate the law could see their licenses suspended for up to a year. It further allows them to be sued for up to 25 years after performing a banned procedure, and these procedures could not be covered by malpractice insurance.
Plaintiffs include Jessica and Ewout van Garderen and their 16-year-old transgender daughter, Scarlet; Molly and Paul Cross and their 15-year-old transgender son, Phoebe; Dr. Juanita Hodax of Community Medical Center; and Dr. Katy Mistretta of Bozeman Creek Family Health. They are represented by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Montana, and the law firm of Perkins Coie.
The defendants are Gianforte, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, the Montana Board of Medical Examiners, the Montana Board of Nursing, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, and the latter’s director, Charlie Brereton.
“It is mentally and physically painful to feel like you are trapped in the wrong body,” Jessica van Garderen said in a Lambda Legal press release. “Going through puberty for the wrong sex is like having your body betray you on a daily basis. The only treatment we have found to be effective and give our daughter hope again is hormone therapy. The difference we have experienced is night and day and there is no going back. Taking away this crucial medical care is inhumane and a violation of our rights. We will fight this law for our daughter and every other family whose rights are being trampled.”
One of the trans youths who are part of the lawsuit, Phoebe Cross, said he doesn't under understand why lawmakers are targeting trans kids.
“Just living as a trans teenager is difficult enough, the last thing me and my peers need is to have our rights taken away. There were many things I hoped my elected officials would achieve, this regression in human rights is not one of those things. The blatant disrespect for my humanity and existence is deeply unsettling,” Cross said.
“We’ve entered a new era of competitive cruelty where politicians are trying to outdo one another in discrimination, as illustrated by the governor’s initial veto of the ban because it just wasn’t vicious enough,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Peter Renn. “This law represents government overreach on steroids. The families targeted here have worked closely and carefully with qualified healthcare professionals to access the care they need. It is reprehensible that politicians would barge into exam rooms to rip away life-saving treatment, in total defiance of science and medicine, after parents have finally found stability and hope for their children’s future.”