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.
Idaho’s business community stood against HB500, which was signed into law in March 2020, but was placed on hold by a temporary injunction in August 2020.
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.