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Montana bill advances concerning transgender youth in school sports

Montana

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HELENA, Montana (AP) — The Montana House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance a bill that would prohibit transgender students from participating on school sports teams of the gender with which they identify.

The bill passed in a 11-8 vote, with one Republican lawmaker joining all committee Democrats in opposing the bill. Rep. Mallerie Stromswold, R-Billings, who voted against the bill, graduated from high school in 2020, making her the youngest committee member.

The measure goes next to a vote on the House floor.

Proponents of the bill say the measure will protect the integrity of women’s sports. The bill is opposed by health care groups, businesses, and human rights advocates in the state, who say it would harm the emotional and physical well-being of transgender youth and harm the state’s economy.

The bill is similar to one signed into law in Idaho last March, becoming the first such law in the country after 17 statehouses considered similar measures in 2020. But a federal judge last August put the law on hold while a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union proceeds.

Rep. Robert Farris-Olsen, D-Helena, said that passing the bill would violate the right to privacy enshrined in the state constitution and could mean Montana would lose federal education funding under an executive order signed by President Joe Biden during his first day in office, which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The executive order states that “children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”

“Not only do we run afoul of the U.S. and Montana constitutions, we also potentially risk all of our federal funding for education in Montana by passing this law,” Farris-Olsen said.

The committee is expected to vote this week on another bill that targets transgender youth. That bill would prohibit doctors from providing transgender youth certain gender-related medical treatment.

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