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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana Senate endorses proposal to limit definition of ‘sex’ in state code

The Montana Senate has endorsed a proposal to eliminate legal recognition of intersex, transgender and nonbinary Montanans. Senate Bill 458 would have the state legally classify transgender, intersex and nonbinary people according to their gender assigned at birth.

During the bill’s initial hearing in late February, Ezekial Cork, a transgender man from Missoula, questioned the policy’s necessity.

“I ask each one of you to look inside and ask yourself, how does this person’s existence affect how I live my own life?” Cork said. “I ask that you try to look beyond your personal biases and realize that this bill affects humans full of complexities just like you.”

Sen. Carl Glimm, a Republican from Kila, said on the Senate floor Wednesday the bill is aimed at keeping laws consistent.

“We need to know what we’re going to talk about. If we’re going to talk about sex, we’re going to use these definitions. If you want to talk about gender, I encourage you to come up with a definition for that and put it in code,” Glimm said.

During his arguments, Glimm referenced a temporary court block of a bill he carried in 2021 to restrict birth certificate amendments for transgender Montanans, arguing the judge in the case incorrectly conflated gender and sex. The judge in the case ordered the block, saying it’s possible that law unconstitutionally burdens residents’ right to due process.

Twenty-eight GOP senators endorsed Glimm’s proposal after it was amended with language aiming to protect intersex Montanans from discrimination. The bill will likely move onto the House of Representatives for consideration.

Democrats say the bill is discriminatory and they’re concerned about the policy’s fiscal impact. An estimation of the cost, drafted by the governor’s budget office, shows it won’t cost the state anything.

However, two state agencies indicated that the bill would likely cause conflict with the federal government and anti-discrimination statutes. The Department of Corrections says it’s difficult to quantify the total fiscal impact the policy would have, but it’s likely to be significant.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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