Gov. Greg Gianforte signed an amended version of Senate Bill 99 into law Friday, which ban certain forms of gender-affirming healthcare for children under the age of 18.
The bill, which goes into effect Oct. 1, bans hormone treatments, such as puberty blockers or hormone boosters, and surgeries for people under the age of 18 seeking to medically transition to a gender identity different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Healthcare providers who violate the could face penalties, including a yearlong suspension of their authority to practice and potential legal liability.
The Republican governor had received a previous version of the bill earlier this month from the GOP-led Legislature and asked for changes before he would sign. He noted that he had met with transgender people and believed they deserve "love, compassion and respect."
Specifically, he asked lawmakers to revise the definition of male and female within the bill and change language within the bill to include minors with conditions such as a disorder of sex development. Legislators agreed to those changes.
Democrats blasted the bill, saying interferes with parents' and children's rights.
“SB 99 eliminates the rights of health care providers, the rights of parents, and the rights of children. I’m deeply disappointed in the Governor for signing this bill into law and prioritizing poisonous political rhetoric over Montanans’ fundamental liberties. But I want Montana’s transgender, nonbinary, and Two Spirit youth and their families to know – you belong here, and no single law will ever stop Montana Democrats from fighting for your right to live your lives in freedom," House Minority Leader Kim Abbott of Helena said in a statement.
The bill became a major flashpoint during the session.Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Missoula Democrat and the state's first transgender lawmaker, said those voting for it would have "blood on their hands" because she felt it would lead to more suicides among the transgender community.
In response, House Speaker Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, refused to call on Zephyr for roughly a week unless she apologized. She refused, leading to protests from the House gallery during a session earlier this week, and seven people were arrested.
House Republicans, who hold a supermajority, then voted Wednesdayto ban Zephyr from the House floor, though she can still vote remotely.