clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

New year, same transphobia: Montana legislators propose anti-trans bills

Lawmakers will consider a ‘carbon copy’ of Idaho’s HB500 in the first wave of potential legal assaults on transgender people nationwide.

June Eastwood is a runner and transgender
A proposed bill in Montana to ban trans student-athletes, like former University of Montana runner June Eastwood, faces a hearing next week.
University of Montana

One might hope that with a new administration in Washington, D.C. and a new secretary of education coming in, the anti-transgender policies of the Trump Administration would fade away.

The reality is, the right-wing legal attack on transgender Americans is once again set to play out in the nation’s state capitals, with Montana slated to be the first. Legislators in that state’s House Judiciary Committee were scheduled to have hearings on two bills, HB112 and HB113, on Wednesday. Late Monday, we learned that the scheduled hearings are postponed until next week.

The measures, according to the American Civil Liberties Union deputy director for transgender justice Chase Strangio, are the first in a growing list of proposed anti-trans legislation on the docket nationwide, as lawmakers start their new sessions.

“I expect we will soon see at least 15 states attempting to criminalize or otherwise ban health care for trans young people,” Strangio tweeted on Monday. “These bills are incredibly dangerous, misguided and part of a larger project to enforce binary norms of sex difference.”

Since the start of 2021, anti-transgender legislation has been filed in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Utah, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Lindsey Hecox put her name on a lawsuit against HB500, a law placed on hold by a federal district court judge. Opponents of the proposed Montana law, HB112, believe it could meet a similar fate.
Idaho Press/Jake King

Montana’s HB112, designed to ban transgender student athletes from participating at the interscholastic and intercollegiate levels, reads nearly identical to Idaho’s HB500, which was signed into law in March 2020. A federal judge ruled in August 2020 that the law was likely unconstitutional and passed strictly due to animus against transgender people, prompting him to grant a preliminary injunction that stalled HB500’s implementation.

Much like the Idaho law, HB112 has been dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” Its sponsor, Montana Republican state representative and former women’s soccer coach John Fuller said in a interview with Yellowstone Public Radio last week that he put forth the bill because he feels allowing transgender women to compete according to their gender identity would be “unfair to females and to women’s sports, period.”

The Rocky Mountain states have become the epicenter of this debate. Boise State student and prospective cross country runner Lindsey Hecox and an unnamed high school student in Idaho put their names on that federal lawsuit against HB500. Also last year, University of Montana’s June Eastwood, a transgender woman, made headlines when she competed in track and cross country for her school. Her Big Sky Conference indoor title in the mile in 2020 was the first NCAA Division I individual conference championship won by a transgender student-athlete.

Republican Montana State Rep. John Fuller is the sponsor of both bills. He said HB112 was needed citing his belief that allowing transgender women to compete in sports would be “unfair to females.”

State Rep. Fuller, who has been quoted as saying he and his colleagues “fully endorse the Trump Agenda.” is also introducing HB113. If passed, the measure would prohibit any health care provider in the state to prescribe any anti-androgen medications and hormones to persons under age 18. Potential penalties would be fines ranging from $500 to $50,000.

The proposed legislation would result in a situation similar to what trans youth in the United Kingdom now face. A High Court decision in that country in November effectively stalled any access to affirming hormone therapy or puberty blockers to those under 16 years of age.

Strangio notes that such potential restrictions aimed at health care providers come as the nation’s health care system still struggles to contain surging numbers of COVID-19 cases. “Keep in mind these are being prioritized in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and would discipline and criminalize doctors treating patients consistent with standards of care,” Strangio tweeted on Monday.