HELENA — The Montana Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance two bills targeting transgender youth despite overwhelming testimony opposing the measures.
The measures would ban gender affirming surgeries for transgender minors and ban transgender athletes from participating in school and college sports.
Both bills have already passed the Montana House. They head next to votes by the GOP-controlled Montana Senate.
The measures passed votes by the committee along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed.
“This is one of the most hateful heinous bills this session has ever considered, and I’m ashamed of us,” Democratic Sen. Diane Sands said Thursday on the bill banning gender affirming surgeries for transgender minors.
Earlier this week, the committee heard overwhelming testimony opposing the measures from medical providers, human rights activist and students in the state. They said the measures could harm the mental and physical health of an already vulnerable group.
Proponents of the measures said they would protect minors from undergoing irreversible surgeries they may later regret and would protect female athletes from competing against athletes with an unfair physical advantage.
“Transgender people deserve full human rights. But there is no human right to female sport, just like there is no human right for me to participate in a junior high school wrestling team,” Republican Rep. John Fuller, who sponsored both measures, said during a hearing on Wednesday.
Bills banning transgender athletes from participating in school sports have been introduced in more than 20 states this year. Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed such a ban last week.
In South Dakota, a similar bill was passed by Legislature. Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has expressed support for it but has not signed it. A similar ban was enacted in Idaho last year, and quickly blocked by a federal judge as a lawsuit plays out.
Bills banning gender affirming medical treatments for minors have been introduced in at least a dozen other states, but none have been signed into law.
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