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Bill banning trans women from women's sports passes Legislature
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Bill banning trans women from women's sports passes Legislature

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A week that started with transgender Montanans, college athletes and students protesting on a cold morning on the Capitol steps ended with GOP lawmakers passing a bill that would ban transgender women from playing on women's sports teams.

House Bill 112 is now on the way to Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte's desk. Gianforte's office said in an email Friday "the governor will carefully consider the bill when it reaches his desk."

The legislation was carried by Rep. John Fuller, a Whitefish Republican, and passed with support from Republicans and opposition from Democrats and a handful of GOP lawmakers. 

The final vote in the Senate was 27-23 and in the House it was 60-39.

The legislation was amended in a conference committee this week to change a provision put on in the Senate that would have voided the bill if the federal government raised concerns it discriminated against transgender athletes. The change this week, brought by Fuller, allows what he called a "full and complete" adjudication, meaning the law would stand if Montana disputed the federal government ruling. That process could take years.

Sen. Dan Salomon, a Ronan Republican, brought the original amendment in the Senate, saying that Montana could be at risk of hundreds of millions in federal education funding.

After taking office, Democratic President Joe Biden issued an executive order saying his administration would pursue enforcement in the case of discrimination based on gender identity. 

Earlier this month, the NCAA said it would not hold championship events in states that discriminated against transgender athletes.

Adrian Jawort, a two-spirit member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, shared a story during the rally Monday of an encounter where she was at risk of violence and told the crowd Native American transgender women face a higher risk of violence than other populations and 25% of Native trans people have been physically attacked.

"HB 112 is another pointless reason to drum up transphobic hysteria," Jawort said Monday. " ... Our trans youth do need protecting, however, and that's from overreaching politicians who bring up these anti-trans bills as alleged solutions looking for problems."

Fuller has contended through the session his bill is about protecting women's sports.

"You have a human right to not be discriminated against, but we do not have a sports right," Fuller said in a conference committee this week.

The Associated Press reported Thursday more than in more than 20 states that saw bills similar to Montana's, most bill sponsors could not point to issues caused by transgender women participating in women's sports.

On Wednesday, the Republican governor of North Dakota vetoed a bill similar to Montana's, and a legislative override failed.

Fuller also carried House Bill 427 this session, which would have limited gender-affirming care for transgender minors. That bill died in the Senate earlier this week.

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