More than 250 businesses, including dozens of national companies that do business in Montana, have signed onto a letter released Tuesday condemning state legislation that targets members of the LGBTQ community.
Sixty national companies, ranging from Molson Coors Beverage Co. and tobacco giant Altria Group to tech and telecoms companies like Google, Amazon and Verizon, endorsed a letter calling on the state Legislature to reject four bills they say “unnecessarily single out already marginalized groups for more mistreatment, harassment, and discrimination.”
“As businesses who support equality for all, we’ve done our part to make sure that our employees will be protected at work,” the letter states. “But these bills would harm our team members and their families as they navigate daily life and utilize services and opportunities that should be available for everyone.”
The letter specifies four pieces of legislation that have attracted substantial attention this session. House Bill 112 would force transgender student-athletes to compete in athletic events that correspond with their gender assigned at birth. House Bill 427 would limit medical care available to transgender minors by banning doctors from performing gender transition procedures on a minor to treat gender dysphoria, or removing any non-diseased body part or tissue of a minor to treat gender dysphoria.
Senate Bill 215, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” would bolster religious beliefs as a defense in court, but has attracted opposition from people who contend that it would open the door for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, has publicly thrown his support behind the bill.
And Senate Bill 280 would require transgender people to get gender-affirming surgery and obtain a court order to alter their birth certificates.
Democrats have been unified in voting against the legislation, while most Republicans in the Legislature have supported it. Republican Rep. John Fuller, of Whitefish, sponsored HB 112 and HB 427, and argued that the measures would protect minors contemplating irreversible surgeries and would prevent cisgender female student-athletes from being at a disadvantage in competitions.
Earlier in the session, more than 100 Montana businesses signed a similar letter urging lawmakers to reject legislation that they said would harm trans youth.
“We know this kind of discriminatory legislation will drive away the businesses and partners our communities need to create and sustain good-paying jobs in Montana,” Pete Strom, who owns Shine Beer Sanctuary in Bozeman, stated in a press release sent by the Montana Human Rights Network on Tuesday. “What lawmakers are currently considering is out-of-touch and out-of-step with the values of Montana businesses and those who seek to relocate here.”
The letter alludes to similar legislation targeting LGBTQ people in other states that has generated economic backlash. North Carolina garnered national attention in 2016 for passing a law restricting bathroom use by transgender people, especially after the NCAA and NBA canceled plans to hold major events in the state. The Associated Press estimated the law would have cost the state $3.76 billion in lost revenue over 12 years. State lawmakers rolled back many of the provisions in that law the following year.