UPDATE #2, Jan. 27: The Montana House of Representatives voted 61-38 to send to the state Senate the bill barring transgender athletes from competing except according to their birth gender.
UPDATE #1, Jan. 21: A committee in Montana’s state legislature voted 11-8 Thursday to send HB112 to the full House of Representatives, according to American Civil Liberties Union attorney Chase Strangio.
ORIGINAL REPORT; A proposed bill to require interscholastic and intercollegiate athletes in Montana to participate according to their sex assigned at birth faced a contentious committee hearing Monday.
Proponents of HB112, introduced by Montana Republican state representative John Fuller, brought in two of the more visible American faces against transgender inclusion in sports: Idaho Republican state representative Barbara Ehardt, who introduced the state’s much-discussed HB500 law; and Beth Stelzer, the head of Minnesota-based Save Women’s Sports.
Both Ehartdt and Steltzer misgendered trans women throughout their testimonies.
“If you continue to allow males to compete in women’s sports, you will have co-ed sports,” Stelzer said. “You will have men’s sports, but there will no longer be women’s sports.”
Ehardt also made a pointed reference to former University of Montana transgender athlete June Eastwood. As a member of the Grizzlies’ track and field team last season, Eastwood won a Big Sky conference indoor championship in the mile. “If June had decided to compete as a freshman I guarantee you, to compete with the University of Montana, every single team in the Big Sky would have been recruiting a biological male athlete onto their team,” Ehardt said.
In contrast, opponents put forth a case that linked facts and feelings. They stated that both HB112 and another law, HB113, which would levy penalties for health care professionals who provide trans-affirming health care for persons under 18, are unconstitutional and would damage the state’s economy.
Montana’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union led a significant contingent to the hearings both in-person and online. Among those who testified were a number of transgender and non-binary Montanans who shared how both bills would affect them.
“Trans people do not transition to gain an advantage in sports. We just don’t,” said Zooey Zephyr, a graduate student at University of Montana and former elite-level competitor in amateur wrestling.
A local indigenous activist noted how the social, mental health, and cultural aspects intersect. “The Amskapi Piikani took pride in their indigequeer, two-spirit, and trans community members and I do as well,” said Kelli Twoteeth of the Indigenous Organizers Collective.
The next phase for both bills will be a vote by the judiciary committee, scheduled for Jan. 22. If the bills pass, they will be debated in the Republican-controlled Montana House of Representatives.