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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montanans protest anti-trans bills with a lie-in at the state Capitol

 On Trans Day of Visibility, a rally at the Montana state Capitol included a "lie-in" in protest of bills that target anti-LGBTQ bills on March 31, 2023.
Ellis Juhlin
On Trans Day of Visibility, a rally at the Montana state Capitol included a "lie-in" in protest of bills that target anti-LGBTQ bills on March 31, 2023.

Demonstrations took place around the state Friday on Trans Day of Visibility. A group of Montanans filled the Capitol rotunda to rally against legislation targeting LGBTQ people. Those bills are advancing and could cost the state billions.

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Missoula Democrat and the first trans woman elected to the state Legislature, spoke of her experience in the statehouse.

“Republicans have stood up and said harmful and hateful things about our community, have taken votes that are complicit in the genocide of our community and then have come to me afterwards and said 'thank you for the work that you do, I want to care for you, I support you.' Your words mean nothing without your actions,” Zephyr said.

After several speeches, transgender, nonbinary, two-spirit Montanans and allies laid down in the rotunda to show they would continue to take up space.

Republican proposals targeting LGBTQ Montanans include a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, protections for people who misgender students in schools and a bill to define sex in law, which would eliminate legal recognition of gender diverse residents.

All have advanced out of committee, and the ban on gender-affirming care is on its way to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk for consideration.

Gianforte has declined to say whether he’ll sign the bill.

“I’ve met with transgender parents, transgender children. We need to make sure everybody’s voice is heard as we make a decision on this bill,” Gianforte said.

In 2021, Gianforte signed bills to ban trans women and girls from participating in interscholastic sports and restrict amendments to the gender marker on birth certificates.

A recent analysis from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Division shows that the bill to define sex in law could jeopardize up to $7.5 billion in federal funding, which is equal to half of the state’s budget, due to anti-discrimination requirements tied to the dollars.

Gianforte says he’s not yet seen the analysis. His budget office projected the bill wouldn’t cost the state anything.

Advocates say there will be an emotional and physical toll of the proposals on trans, nonbinary and intersex Montanans. The American Medical Association says gender-affirming care is medically necessary and reduces suicides.

Supporters of the bills say they’re designed to protect minors from life-changing medical treatments and to codify a difference between sex and gender in law.

MTPR reporter Ellis Juhlin contributed reporting.

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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