Colman Domingo
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Montana Advances One Anti-Trans Bill, Kills Another

Montana

The Montana House of Representatives has approved a bill that would bar transgender student athletes from competing on the teams comporting with their gender identity.

The chamber passed House Bill 112 on its third reading Wednesday, according to organizations monitoring the situation. The bill now goes to the Montana Senate, and if the Senate OK's it, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte will decide whether to sign it. Gianforte has not taken a public position on the measure, but he has made anti-trans statements in the past.

The vote comes a day after the House rejected a bill that would penalize doctors for providing gender-affirmation procedures to trans minors. Then Wednesday, a motion to reconsider the bill failed, so it will not advance further.

HB 112, titled the Save Women's Sports Act, is aimed especially at preventing trans girls and women from competing with cisgender females. Its proponents claim trans females have an inherent advantage over their cis counterparts, but many activists and scientists dispute this. Idaho passed similar legislation last year, but a federal court has blocked it from taking effect.

And the federal government is likely to intervene in any court proceedings on the side of trans inclusion and could withhold funding from exclusionary states, given President Joe Biden’s signing of an executive order promising to uphold LGBTQ+ rights. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” the order says in part.

Those who oppose the bill have raised concerns about the effect on the mental health of young trans people, who are already vulnerable, and about the economic impact on Montana, as other states, such as North Carolina, have been subject to boycotts after enacting anti-trans laws.

The House rejected the transition care ban, House Bill 113, by a vote of 51-49 Tuesday, the Montana Free Press reports. This came on the bill’s third and final reading; five legislators who had supported it on its second reading, which took place Monday, changed their positions to oppose it.

HB 113 would have barred doctors from prescribing hormones or puberty blockers to people under age 18, in addition to prohibiting transition-related surgery for minors. Backers of the bill had contended that no one should undergo irreversible procedures while a minor. However, most trans people do not undergo genital surgery until they are adults, in line with generally accepted medical practices, and the effects of puberty blockers and hormones are reversible when a person stops taking them. Similar bills failed in several states last year.

Some of those who changed their votes said they did so after learning more about transition-related care. “I learned … that it’s a continuum of care,” House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, a Republican, told the Free Press. “The younger child doesn’t go into an immediate course [to transition]. It’s much more gradual and it’s a much more involved decision-making process.”

Those who spoke in opposition to the bill, including trans people, their families, and medical professionals, “were quite passionate, as you can imagine, about the need to allow parents to make these personal decisions for their families,” she noted.

Rep. Denley Loge, another Republican, said he changed his vote from a yes to a no because he decided HB 113 would interfere too much with doctors’ practices and families’ decisions.

“There was just too much stepping in,” Loge, who has relatives who work in health care, told the Free Press. “Plus, there are some family values that need to be considered on the parents’ side.”

“Thanks to the loud voices of transgender Montanans and advocates for equality, the Montana House has wisely rejected the proposed ban on medical care for trans youth. As another anti-trans bill moves forward, we urge Montana’s state senators not to give serious consideration to a policy in search of a problem,” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a press release.

“HB 112 does not respond to any real public policy issue, but rather is simply the newest front of the same fight that opponents of equality have been fighting in state legislatures for the better part of a decade — and losing. They lost on marriage, they lost on bathroom bills and while they may have won today’s battle, they will lose this war as well. Trans athletes in Montana deserve more — they deserve to have their legislature focus on issues that actually matter to Montanans, like COVID relief and rebuilding the economy. The only reason for this rush to legislate is because Montana knows that more scrutiny on this bill will show that they’re baseless, unconstitutional politically motivated attacks and nothing more.”

“We are overjoyed for the transgender and nonbinary youth of Montana to see this dangerous bill defeated,” Sam Brinton, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, which assists LGBTQ+ youth, said of the transition care bill. “These proposed bans on gender-affirming medical care are based in fear, and contradict the resounding conclusion of nearly every major medical association in the United States. We urge Montana lawmakers to also reconsider the ban on transgender student athletes and to stop it from moving forward altogether. Thank you to all of the state and local advocates on the ground who worked tirelessly to make this victory happen and to the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who voted today in the best interest of transgender and nonbinary youth’s mental health and well-being. Our work isn’t done, and HB 112 still needs to be stopped, but this brave vote will save young lives in Montana.” 

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