On Friday, Republicans in the state House of Representatives passed a bill banning gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender minors and the use of public funds for those treatments.
The House’s near-partisan vote on Senate Bill 99 nearly coincided with the Senate’s first vote on Thursday’s bill. All but three Republicans supported the bill after less than an hour of debate. It will be returned to the Senate, which was approved in February, to consider two amendments adopted by members of the House of Representatives.
SB 99 has been criticized as a discriminatory and misguided human rights violation by transgender Montanas, their families and medical professionals. Republicans, who hold the overwhelming majority in Montana’s legislature, have pushed the law in an attempt to protect minors from undergoing treatments such as puberty blockers and hormones.
Members of the majority party echoed that assessment during Thursday’s debate in the House of Representatives.
“Our children are our future. Everyone knows it. They need our protection,” said R-Kalispell Rep. said while holding up “In my opinion, this is what compassion looks like.”
Democrats slammed that argument, arguing that SB 99 would hurt young people and families by trampling on medical freedom and parental choice.
“In fact, in this room, this building, communities across the state, there are children and parents and members of the LGBT community. They are your voters, your community members, your colleagues,” said Rep. SJ Howell. , D-Missoula, and Montana’s first openly non-binary legislator. “They deserve dignity and respect and equal treatment under the law that all Montanas deserve. And SB 99 is an absolute affront to that.”
The bill, sponsored by Senator John Fuller (R-Kalispell), mimics bans on gender-affirming care for young people passed in other states. Some of them have been stopped in federal court, including laws passed in Arkansas and Alabama. According to a recent report by his campaign for the national advocacy group Human Rights, 22.9% of her transgender youth live in states that have passed bans on care. An additional 27.5% of that demographic could lose access to care if states, including Montana, approve the currently pending legislation.
On Friday, hours before lawmakers took their final vote on the bill, LGBTQ civil rights groups announced their intention to file lawsuits on behalf of transgender minors if SB 99 were enacted, vowing to support the bill. bans the only evidence-based treatment for gender dysphoria. in my youth.
“Montana legislators seem desperate to join a growing roster of states determined to jeopardize the health and lives of transgender youth and endorse this care as appropriate and necessary. We categorically disagree with the overwhelming scientific and medical evidence to support this,” said a release from Lambda Legal. , the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Montana. “Transgender youth in Montana deserve the support and care they need to give them the same opportunity to thrive as their peers.”
A spokesperson for the governor’s office declined to answer specific questions about Gianforte’s position on SB 99, but said the governor would “carefully consider” the bill the legislature sends to his desk. Gianforte could either sign or reject the bill, or let it pass without his signature.
Families with transgender children have expressed frustration and uncertainty about their future in the state if SB 99 takes effect.
Manhattan resident Poe Hamilton, who turns 14 this weekend, said Friday that she would rather spend her time and energy as a child than worry about how to continue to get medical care to treat her gender dysphoria. He also objected to Republicans portraying SB 99 as helping transgender youth.
“If I make a big decision, I sit down and talk to people who might be affected. Otherwise, what good is that?” Hamilton said. It’s just people who don’t have it trying to make decisions for people who are in that situation.”
Hamilton’s parents said they were lucky to have a “departure plan”. It’s the ability to move to another state when the time is right. No other family has that luxury, they said.
“Uprooted and leaving the country? That’s something we have to consider and it’s a shame because our kids are sixth generation Montanas,” said Hamilton’s mother. Curry said. “Our family is here, we have jobs we love, our friends are here, we’re involved in community. It turns your whole life upside down.”
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