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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

House approves bill criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors

Montana Capitol building in the snow.
Shayee Ragar
UM Legislative News Service
Montana Capitol building in the snow.

Republican Senate Bill 99, which would criminalize gender-affirming care for transgender minors in Montana, has advanced along party lines in a state House committee despite hours of opposition testimony. The bill was amended, but opponents say that doesn’t address their concerns.

In addition to banning gender-affirming care, like puberty blockers, for transgender youth, the bill would also ban public funds from paying for gender-affirming care and public employees from affirming a child’s transition.

Republican Rep. Braxton Mitchell of Columbia Falls argued in support of the bill, saying minors are too young to access this type of care.

“This is adolescent children we’re talking about – can’t buy alcohol, can’t buy cigarettes, can’t consent to sexual activities, can’t live on their own,” Mitchell said.

Before passing House Judiciary, the bill was amended to clarify that public funds can be used for health care that is unrelated to gender affirmation, even if a facility offers those services. But Democrats say the bill, as amended, will still prevent transgender youth from accessing best practice, and sometimes life-saving, care.

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat from Missoula and the first transgender woman elected to the state Legislature, spoke in opposition to the bill in committee.

“To delay them from the care that they need is to force them to go through a puberty that is for many trans people is tantamount to torture,” Zephyr said.

The American Medical Association says treatment for gender dysphoria is medically necessary care that can involve changing the body to align with a person's gender identity.

When the bill was heard on the Senate floor, debate came to a standstill when Democrats and Republicans sparred over the rules that dictate decorum and language used to describe the bill. Speaker of the House Matt Regier says he expects a respectful debate on the House floor.

Senate Bill 99 will now head to the House floor for debate.

Updated: March 21, 2023 at 9:00 PM MDT
This piece has been updated to reflect that SB99 was most recently approved by the House of Representatives.
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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