HELENA — Legislators and LGBTQ+ rights advocates gathered near the State Capitol on Tuesday to denounce proposed legislation they say would have a negative impact on the LGBTQ+ community.
So far, two bills have been officially introduced and a number of draft requests on LGBTQ+ issues have also been put forward.
Many of the proposals mirror similar legislation that has been introduced in other states across the country such as prohibiting transition-related healthcare to minors and prohibiting minors from attending events with individuals in drag.
“We recognize that given the supermajority in the legislature that we have quite the battle ahead of us,” said Shawn Reagor with the Montana Human Rights Network. “However, we are determined whether it is state legislature or in the courts to make sure none of these bills go into effect.”
On Friday, Jan. 27, Senate Judiciary will hear Senate Bill 99 which would prohibit any organization that receives public funding from providing certain gender-affirming medical and surgical treatments for transgender and nonbinary minors. It would also prevent schools from allowing social transitioning such as changing a minor's preferred pronouns or allowing them to dress in preferred gendered clothing.
Speakers on Tuesday say lawmakers’ stance on LGBTQ+ issues are greatly impacted by life experience and if they personally know a member of the community. One big difference this legislative session is for the first time in the state’s history there are openly nonbinary and trans legislators serving, namely Missoula Democrats Rep. SJ Howell and Rep. Zooey Zephyr.
“From day one I’ve been approached by moderate members of the majority party who have said they do not want to see legislation like this pass and who, you know, are kind to me and caring to me and I know who are working within their party to try to tamp down on these attacks,” said Zephyr.
The 2021 Montana legislative session saw several bills that impacted transgender, nonbinary and two-spirit individuals. Bills signed by Gov. Gianforte included a ban on transgender individuals participating in collegiate women’s sports and a law that required surgery and an order from the court to change an individual’s gender on their birth certificate. Montana courts have since found both of those laws unconstitutional.
*Editor's note: this story has been changed to remove the term gender dysphoria in line with the guidance from GLAAD's media reference guide.