Plaintiffs seek temporary block on gender-affirming care ban
Three transgender youth and two health care providers asked a judge Monday to temporarily block a law banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors. If the judge denies that request, the law will go into effect Oct. 1.
Signed into law last spring, Senate Bill 99 bans treatment, like puberty blockers or hormone therapy, for transgender minors. The lawsuit argues it violates three rights under the Montana Constitution – privacy, equal protection and parental rights.
Attorney for the plaintiffs Malita Picasso said there’s no question of the law’s harm on transgender youth who currently receive care.
“Losing this care is simply not an option for them. There are people in this room who are having to consider whether to leave the state in order to obtain this care,” Picasso said.
Picasso pointed to the Montana Supreme Court upholding the right to access abortion, saying the state cannot interfere with private medical decisions unless it has a compelling state interest. She said the law fails to meet that threshold.
Picasso also argued that the ban is discriminatory because it applies only to care for transgender youth, but will still be available to other minors.
Montana Department of Justice attorney Michael Russell in defense said the state has a compelling interest, and responsibility, to protect children from treatment that can result in permanent changes.
“The fact remains that it’s experimental. And that severely undercuts this assertion that this treatment is safe, effective and medically necessary,” Russell said.
Many medical groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, say gender-affirming care is medically necessary.
Missoula County District Court Judge Jason Marks will rule sometime next week whether the law should be put on hold while the court battle plays out. That decision will impact whether treatment can continue in the meantime. Attorneys on either side will present fuller cases at trial.