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Montana House votes down bill targeting gender-affirming care for transgender people
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Montana House votes down bill targeting gender-affirming care for transgender people

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The Montana House of Representatives

The Montana House of Representatives holds a floor session in the state Capitol.

A controversial bill that would have penalized doctors who provided gender-affirming care to transgender minors or made referrals for that care died on the House floor Tuesday, after losing the support of five Republicans who voted for it the day prior.

House Bill 113, from Rep. John Fuller, a Whitefish Republican, passed an initial vote Monday 53-47, with all Democrats joining some Republicans in opposing the legislation. It went down on a 49-51 vote Tuesday, with five GOP representatives moving to vote against the bill. In total 18 Republicans and all 33 Democrats, who are the minority party in the House, voted against the bill.

Rep. Denley Loge, R-St. Regis, was one of the legislators who changed his vote. He said Tuesday his initial yes vote was "very conflicted."

“I thought excluding medical treatment for pretty much anything is a little overreach,” Loge said after Tuesday's vote. “To me, it didn’t necessarily have to do with being transgender. Sometimes you need medical treatment for things.”

After the floor session, Loge said he was happy with the outcome.

“I think I did the right thing,” Loge said.

Rep. Sue Vinton, a Republican from Billings who is majority leader in the House, also changed her vote from a yes Monday to a no Tuesday.

"I've been watching and studying and contemplating this bill for weeks," Vinton said. "I can't say that it was a 24-hour process. It was more of a couple-of-weeks-long process."

Vinton said she's been considering all perspectives around the legislation.

"I think yesterday and today, just like my fellow representatives did, I voted out of the concern for the health and safety of our children. I still have those concerns, but I can certainly see both aspects of the issue," Vinton said.

People in and out of her district had contacted her about the proposal, Vinton said.

"I welcome constituents or anyone else calling me, because that's how I learn more about the personal stories and the events that other families that have gone through, (things) that maybe I wasn't necessarily aware of," Vinton said.

Issues like those in HB 112 are newer to the Legislature, Vinton said.

"I think this is a conversation that needs to be ongoing. I'm sure that legislators 20 years ago never contemplated having this kind of bill before them. I hope that the conversation will continue and just as we did yesterday and today we're all going to keep what's best for kids in the forefront."

Fuller had said Monday the bill, plus another to prohibit transgender women from participating in women's sports, were intended to shield people from harm.

On House Bill 113, Fuller called it "another tool by which we can protect children and by protecting them we are not denying them care, compassion, counseling, whatever. We are only telling them that they need to have the opportunity to reach adulthood before they are subjected to decisions that will affect their lives forever."

Those who opposed the bill said it did the opposite and denied transgender athletes opportunities.

House Bill 112, which got initial approval from the House on Monday by a wider margin than HB 113, was not scheduled for a final vote Tuesday.

The breakdown in the House is 67 Republicans and 33 Democrats.

Lawmakers could make an attempt to revive the bill at a later point, if there's enough support from the full House.

This story will be updated.

— Reporter Austin Amestoy with UM Legislative News Service contributed to this story.

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