HELENA — The House of Representatives voted Monday to keep a controversial bill alive that would limit trangender women’s rights by sending the legislation to a conference committee to rectify differences between the House and Senate versions.
House Bill 112 would bar transgender women from competing on women’s sports teams. It narrowly passed the Senate on a 29-21 vote with an amendment that would nullify the act if the federal government condemns it. The House voted 97-2 Monday against the Senate amendment, which pushes the bill to a conference committee.
Rep. John Fuller, R-Whitefish, is the bill’s sponsor. He asked the House to not pass the Senate’s amended version. He said rather than immediately nullifying the act if the federal government strikes it down, the state should wait for a lengthy appeals process.
“It’s important to note that the appeals process probably will take about two years and we would be back in session in plenty of time to change the law if the federal government says we are not in compliance,” Fuller said.
HB 112 is similar to bills filed in dozens of other states. For instance, Mississippi’s legislature passed the “Mississippi Fairness Act” in March to the same effect.
In prior debate, proponents for HB 112 have hailed it as a way to protect equality for women in sports. Jeff Laszloffy, the president of the Montana Family Foundation, testified at the bill’s first hearing in late January saying it would preserve equal opportunities for men and women in educational opportunities, including sports, as mandated by a federal law passed in the 1970s,
“It’s about maintaining the gains that have been made since Title IX passed in 1972,” Laszloffy said.
Opponents to the bill have pointed to studies showing no noticeable difference between cis and trangender women after hormone treatments.
SK Rossi spoke on behalf of the cities of Bozeman and Missoula.
“These bills are divisive,” Rossi said “They’re cruel, and Missoula and Bozeman will not stand by while our residents, especially our kids, are put in the crosshair of state policy.”
The NCAA released a statement Monday saying it will only host championships in places that provide environments that are “safe, healthy and free of discrimination.” The NCAA has a adopted policy to allow transgender athletes to compete on teams that align with their gender identity.
James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.