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Bill to deny gender-affirming care for trans youth fails

| January 26, 2021 3:00 PM

HELENA (AP) — The Montana House on Tuesday voted 51-49 against a bill that sought to penalize physicians who provide gender-affirming health care for transgender youth.

The vote came a day after the legislation was approved 53-47 on second reading.

"This is a huge victory," Caitlin Borgmann, the executive director of the ACLU of Montana, said in a statement. "Montanans spoke up clearly that anti-trans laws have no place in Montana, and lawmakers listened. Trans youth — and trans people — deserve to live with dignity and respect. Instead of stigmatizing and harming trans youth, our laws should support them."

Supporters argued the bill would protect minors from life-altering medical treatment they are not fully able to authorize. Opponents said prohibiting such care would harm the physical and mental well-being of transgender youth.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Fuller, R-Whitefish, was amended to prevent doctors from referring transgender youth to out-of-state doctors who could provide them with that care.

Six Republicans changed their votes between Monday and Tuesday, with five switching to no and one switching to yes.

House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, R-Billings, switched her vote to no on Tuesday, saying she has been contemplating the bill for weeks.

"I think yesterday and today, just like my fellow representatives did, I voted out of the concern for the health and safety of our children," Vinton told the Montana State News Bureau. "I welcome constituents or anyone else calling me, because that's how I learn more about the personal stories and the events that other families that have gone through (things) that maybe I wasn't necessarily aware of."

While the bill is probably dead, House rules allow for a member to ask for it to be reconsidered Wednesday. If a majority of the members approve, another third-reading vote could be held.

The House is also considering a bill, brought by Fuller, that would prohibit transgender youth from participating in school sports according to the gender with which they identify. That bill was approved 62-38 on second reading Monday and still faces a third reading before it could move to the Senate.

Both bills are opposed by a wide coalition of health care groups, businesses and human rights advocates in the states.

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity, leading Democrats to raise concerns that the state's federal education funding could be withheld if the bills become law.