Montana ban on gender-affirming care nears governor’s desk after Senate vote

Senate expected to take final vote on Senate Bill 99 on Wednesday

By: - March 28, 2023 5:16 pm
The Montana Senate votes to concur with House amendments on Senate Bill 99 on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, the penultimate vote before the measure would be sent to the governor's desk.

The Montana Senate votes to concur with House amendments on Senate Bill 99 on Tuesday, March 28, 2023, the penultimate vote before the measure would be sent to the governor’s desk. (Photo by Blair Miller, Daily Montanan)

The bill that would ban gender-affirming care for children in Montana and punish providers is on the verge of being sent to the governor’s desk after the Senate on Tuesday concurred with the amendments made in the House.

The Senate voted 33-17 – Sen. Terry Vermeire, R-Anaconda being the lone Republican no vote – to pass Senate Bill 99 onto its third and final reading. The body is expected to send the bill to the governor’s desk with a final vote on Wednesday. Three Republican senators who voted against the bill the first time it cleared the Senate in early February voted in favor of it Tuesday.

The bill and its Republican supporters say the measure is aimed at protecting Montana children by prohibiting them from receiving puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones or transition surgery, which medical providers testified is rare.

Further, it subjects physicians who provide gender-affirming care to discipline including the potential loss or suspension of their license, allows the attorney general to seek actions against providers, and allows a person who “suffers an injury” from gender-affirming care to bring civil claims against providers up to four years after they discover the injury. A similar bill died in the Senate in 2021.

After months of long, emotional discussions in committees and on both chamber floors, Tuesday’s hearing on the matter lasted about four minutes, as Democrats made a final plea to the Republican majority to kill the bill, while sponsor Sen. John Fuller, R-Kalispell, urged its passage.

“There’s no greater love for their children than to protect them from life-altering decisions that they cannot reverse,” Fuller said in his closing.

Democrats and many health care providers, transgender adults and children, and parents have testified throughout the session the bill was an invasion of privacy and would harm transgender children and their families by keeping them from being their true selves, while Republicans have pointed to a handful of people who detransitioned, telling committees they regretted their decisions as they got older but were unable to fully return to their original gender identities, as reason to support SB99.

Sen. Susan Webber, D-Browning, urged the Senate to reject the House amendments and the bill, saying the amendments did nothing to improve the measure and calling it “discriminatory” legislation that flew in the face of the testimony from medical professionals who say gender-affirming treatments are safe for children.

Sen. Shannon O’Brien, D-Missoula, reminded the body they represent all Montanans, including transgender, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people, regardless of how they feel about their personal lives.

“We recognize them; we represent their families; and it’s our job to stand with them,” she said. “It’s our job to make decisions from a place of love for them and it’s our job to fight for their freedoms and for their opportunities to live their lives openly, full of freedom and of joy.”

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Blair Miller
Blair Miller

Blair Miller is a reporter based in Helena who primarily covers government, climate and courts. He's been a journalist for more than 12 years, previously based in Denver, Albuquerque and mid-Missouri.