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Montana legislators pass two bills targeting transgender youth

Activists and protesters with the National Center for Transgender Equality rally in front of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Washington, after the Department of Education and the Justice Department announce plans to overturn the school guidance on protecting transgender students.
Activists and protesters with the National Center for Transgender Equality rally in front of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Washington, after the Department of Education and the Justice Department announce plans to overturn the school guidance on protecting transgender students.Photo: (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Montana House just passed two bills that restrict the rights of transgender youth, and the ACLU is already promising to sue the state as the bills get sent to the state senate.

House Bills 112 and 113 would ban student athletes from participating in sports as their gender and prevent minors from receiving health care related to gender transition, respectively. H.B. 112 passed with a 62-38 vote and H.B. 113 passed with a closer margin of 53-47, after a debate yesterday where the bills’ proponents repeatedly referred to transgender girls and women as “males.”

Related: House Republican introduces anti-trans legislation that could lead to genital exams for school girls

Editor’s update: Each bill passed its second reading on Monday. H.B. 113 was up for a third reading on Tuesday and failed. H.B. 112 will be up for a third reading on Wednesday. We regret the implication that the state house was completely finished with the bills on Monday.

“Children live under the guardianship of adults precisely because they lack the maturity, prudence and experience to make safe responsible decisions for themselves,” said Montana Rep. John Fuller (R) in support of H.B. 113. The bill could result in doctors in the state receiving fines if they provide gender-affirming care for transgender youth in the state in accordance with recommendations from health care organizations.

When it comes to H.B. 112, the sports bill, state Republicans claimed that allowing transgender youth to compete as their gender would make it impossible for cisgender girls and women to compete in school sports, even though many states already allow transgender youth to compete as their gender and cisgender girls and women are able to compete and win just fine.

According to ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, one of the bill’s proponents even argued that cisgender boys and men will lie and say that they are transgender girls and women in order to beat cisgender girls and women at sports.

“WHO WOULD EVER DO THAT?” Strangio tweeted, frustrated by the state legislators’ ignorance of transgender people.

H.B. 112, the sports bill, flies in the face of the Biden administration’s interpretation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans discrimination “based on sex” for schools that receive federal funds, which is most schools.

Last week, Joe Biden signed an executive order telling executive agencies to interpret bans on discrimination “based on sex” as including bans on anti-LGBTQ discrimination, in-line with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the historic Bostock v. Clayton Co. case last year.

“Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” Biden’s executive order said.

And the ACLU of Montana is already threatening a lawsuit, possibly in response to violations of Title IX.

“Montana could lose up to $484 million in federal education dollars if it passes HB 112,” the organization tweeted. “That funding will harm a lot of students.”

Several other states are considering anti-transgender legislation this year, including South Dakota, which debated and rejected a bill to make it harder for transgender people to correct the gender marker on their birth certificates today. North Dakota is also considering a bill to ban transgender girls and women from participating in school sports with as their actual gender, and Iowa and Texas are considering bans on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) introduced a bill this year that would require state and local school athletics governing bodies to keep anyone assigned male at birth out of women’s sports. His bill would define sex as “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.”

Advocates of transgender youth say that the sports legislation will only lead to further social isolation for trans kids and deny them the opportunities and benefits of participating in sports, all in an effort to deny their gender identity.

“Claiming that being assigned male at birth makes one constrained to the category of man and the so-called biology of maleness for their entire lives is tantamount to erasing the embodied and lived experience of trans people. A woman who is trans is a woman,” wrote the ACLU’s Strangio in a Medium article about the GOP attempts to force transgender girls and women out of school sports.

“And all the science we have demonstrates that not affirming trans and gender-expansive kids in who they are results in catastrophic mental health consequences including devastating rates of suicidality.”

South Dakota legislature rejects anti-trans legislation

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