Why It Matters: A Surge in Transgender Legislation
Montana is one of several states where Republican lawmakers have sought this year to prohibit hormone treatments and surgical care for transgender minors. About 1.3 million adults and 300,000 children in the United States identify as transgender, and efforts to restrict what is known as gender-affirming care have thrust them into one of the nation’s most pitched political battles.
Republican legislators have characterized transition care as harmful and experimental, saying that people under 18 are not mature enough to make permanent decisions. But major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support this care and say that bans pose serious mental health risks to young people.
The increase in state legislation is also part of a long-term campaign by national conservative organizations that see transgender rights as an issue around which they can harness some voters’ anger, and raise money.
Background: A Heated Debate Over Debate
During an April 18 debate in the House, Ms. Zephyr said that denying transition care to minors would be “tantamount to torture” and that if Republicans passed the bill, they would see “blood on your hands.”
Republican lawmakers condemned her for using “hateful rhetoric,” and the House speaker, Matt Regier, said he would not allow her to speak again until she had apologized. The clash led to protests on the Capitol steps last Monday, and Ms. Zephyr’s supporters crowded the House gallery, shouting, “Let her speak!” Mr. Regier ordered the gallery cleared, and police officers moved in with batons and face shields. Seven people were arrested.
Members of the conservative Montana Freedom Caucus accused Ms. Zephyr, who held her microphone aloft in the House chamber as her supporters were ordered to disperse, of “standing in the middle of the floor encouraging an insurrection.”
What’s Next: Lawmakers Still at Work
The state’s legislative session is set to end on Friday. Montana lawmakers are working to finalize the state budget and have also been considering other bills related to gender identity, including one that could bar public school students from changing their pronouns without parental permission.
Ms. Zephyr’s lawsuit calls for temporary restraining orders and injunctions that would prevent House leaders from enforcing the vote last week barring her from the floor. As of Monday afternoon, lawyers for the A.C.L.U. said they were waiting for a judge to review Ms. Zephyr’s application for emergency relief.
Mike Baker contributed reporting.