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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Gender-affirming care ban advances as lawmakers, governor agree to changes

The state Legislature and Gov. Greg Gianforte have agreed on changes to a ban on gender-affirming care for minors. The governor signaled his support for the policy, saying his amendatory veto will strengthen the bill. Montana Public Radio’s Shaylee Ragar reports.

The Republican supermajority at the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 99 after hours of emotional testimony. Supporters of the legislation say it’ll protect minors from medical treatment with long-lasting impacts.

Opponents to the legislation say it prevents doctors from providing best practice care and would lead to increased depression and suicidality among gender diverse youth.

In a letter to lawmakers Monday afternoon, Gianforte argued the science behind gender-affirming care is unsettled, and that the Legislature is right to prohibit treatment like puberty blockers. Gianforte says the amendments he’s offering would broaden the definitions of male and female and make clearer the restrictions on public funding for care.

Republican Sen. John Fuller of Kalispell is the bill’s sponsor and supported the amendments.

“My constituents sent me here to protect Montana’s children and this bill does exactly that.”

Both the Senate and House have voted to accept Gianforte’s amendments to the bill. Both chambers will have to vote one more time before it returns to Gianforte for consideration.

Keegan Medrano, policy director with the ACLU of Montana and opponent of the bill, says the governor’s changes don’t significantly change the policy that passed.

“The governor seems lock in step with some of the elements of the Legislature which seem committed to both legislating against and ultimately harming the LGBTQ community.”

The Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement that Gianforte’s letter contains misleading information that runs counter to consensus among medical professionals. The organization opposes the bill, saying “transgender youth deserve access to medically-necessary, evidence-based health care.”

In addition to banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth, the bill would also ban public funds from paying for gender-affirming care and public employees from encouraging gender-affirming care.

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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