Montana’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans minors has been signed : NPR

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The Rep. Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, stands in protest as protesters are arrested in the House gallery, Monday, April 24, 2023, at the state Capitol in Helena, Mont. .

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The Rep. Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, stands in protest as protesters are arrested in the House gallery, Monday, April 24, 2023, at the state Capitol in Helena, Mont. .

Thom Bridge/AP

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana became the latest state to ban or restrict gender-affirming medical care for transgender children on Friday when its Republican governor signed legislation that exiled transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr told lawmakers their friends will leave “blood” on their hands.

Montana is one of at least 15 states with laws banning such care despite protests from families of transgender youth that care is essential.

The debate over Montana’s bill drew national attention after Republicans chastised Zephyr for her remarks, saying her words were personally offensive. House Speaker Matt Regier refused to allow Zephyr to speak on the House floor until she apologized. She didn’t.

Zephyr decried the signing of the bill, saying “it is unconscionable to deprive Montanans of the care we need.”

“I know this is an unconstitutional bill. It’s as cruel as it is unconstitutional. And it’s going to go down in the courts,” Zephyr said. To the trans youth she added: “There is an understandable inclination towards despair in these moments, but know that we will win and until then, I rely on the community, because we have each other’s backs.”

On Monday, Zephyr had defiantly dropped to the House floor with her microphone raised as protesters shouted “Let her speak,” disrupting House proceedings for at least 30 a minute. Zephyr was then banned from the House and its balcony and voted on bills from a bench in the hallway outside the House on Thursday and Friday.

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Montana said they will file a court challenge to the ban, which is set to take effect on October 1, starting a five months in which Montana youth can try to find a way to work around the ban or transition from hormone treatment.

“This bill is an overbroad blanket ban that takes decisions that should be made by families and doctors and puts them in the hands of politicians,” said the Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Governor Greg Gianforte showed his willingness to sign the bill on April 17 when he offered some amendments to make it clear that public funds could not be used to pay for hormone blockers, cross-sex hormones or surgical procedures.

The bill “protects Montana children from permanent life-changing medical procedures until they are adults, mature enough to make such serious decisions,” Gianforte wrote in his letter accompanying the amendments.

The debate over the amendments prompted Zephyr to warn fans the next day. The House Majority Leader, Sue Vinton, said that Zephyr’s language was “completely inappropriate, disrespectful and uncalled for”.

The Montana Freedom Caucus deliberately singled out Zephyr, using male pronouns in a letter it said should be censored. After Monday’s protest, the caucus said it should be more disciplined.

Under the new law, health professionals who provide care prohibited by the measure could have their medical licenses suspended for at least a year. They can also be sued within 25 years after a prohibited procedure if a patient suffers physical, psychological, emotional or physiological damage. Doctors could not maintain malpractice insurance against such lawsuits. The law also prohibits public property and employees from engaging in gender-affirming treatment.

During hours of emotional committee hearings, opponents testified that hormone treatments, and in some cases, surgery, are evidence-based treatments supported by many medical associations and can life-saving for someone with gender dysphoria — the distress or clinically significant impairment caused. by feeling that the gender identity does not match with his biological sex.

Parents of transgender children testified that the bill violated their parents’ rights to seek medical care for their children.

Opponents also noted that treatments such as puberty blockers and breast reduction surgery would still be legal for minors who do not suffer from gender dysphoria, a distinction they argue is unconstitutional.

In the letter to legislative leaders accompanying his proposed amendments, Gianforte said he has met with transgender residents, understands their struggles are real and said Montanans who struggle with gender identity deserve love, compassion and respect

“This is not what trans Montanans need from you,” Zephyr said as the House considered his amendments. “We need access to life-saving medical care.”

This was the second legislative session in which Senator John Fuller introduced the bill to ban gender-affirming care for transgender children. In 2021, when he was a member of the House, he submitted a bill to ban surgical and hormone treatments for transgender children, which was voted down. He submitted a second bill to ban surgical treatments which was also rejected. He managed in 2021 to pass a bill banning transgender women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports. The part of the bill that applied to colleges was declared unconstitutional.

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