First, the religious freedom bill. Republican Sen. Carl Glimm sponsored the bill and claims that it is not an attempt to attack anti-discrimination ordinances, but rather is all about preserving religious freedom. He cited past religious freedom measures meant to protect Native communities. While “religious freedom” pushed from the right more often than not is coded language for anti-queer discrimination, this concern became doubly obvious after an amendment to the bill failed to pass on Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Kim Abbott tried to amend the bill to specify that it could not be used to challenge protections under the Montana Human Rights Act (which doesn’t actually protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation), but that amendment ended in a 47-53 vote, failing to pass.
On Thursday, Republican Rep. John Fuller said during the debate, “Do not make me NOT do what my God tells me to do,” as reported by the AP.
In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said Gianforte should “seriously consider vetoing this legislation, which would not just discriminate against LGBTQ people, but threaten to ward off the very businesses he is hoping to attract.” Interestingly, a similar message eventually led to some degree of change in the details of an anti-trans bill also moving through the state legislature, though that bill, unfortunately, is also still in motion.
Second, we have the anti-trans sports bill unsurprisingly titled the “Save Women’s Sports Act.” This bill passed a second reading in the Senate on Tuesday with a vote of 29-21. Like similar bills, this one would require that student athletes participate and compete on teams that align with their sex assigned at birth, not necessarily with their actual gender identity. This would apply to public schools from elementary school through higher education, as well as any schools that compete against public schools. This bill passed with an amendment that would void the legislation if the Department of Education took enforcement action. Why? Worries over losing business for the state.
Republican Rep. Dan Solomon, who introduced the amendment, expressed concern about potential boycotts from the NCAA and losing federal money. “If you want to take this chance on the educational future of hundreds of thousands of kids, this is your opportunity, and if you don’t ever want to watch a home football playoff game in Montana, again, your choice,” he stated as reported by the Montana Free Press. Not exactly an emotional support of trans rights, but perhaps a message that will get through to the governor. And at least he did speak against his fellow Republicans when it came to this discriminatory measure.
In a statement to LGBTQ Nation, Executive Director of the ACLU of Montana Caitlin Borgmann said in reference to the bill: “There is no doubt that discriminatory laws like this will harm people, especially trans youth who just want to live their best lives without the government telling them what they can and cannot do.” Transgender folks face hardships and barriers at every stage of life. They need more protections and inclusions, not less. And where trans kids grow up should not affect the rights and opportunities they have, which is why these bills need to be stamped out across the nation.