HELENA — The Montana House and Senate have both endorsed the final version of a bill that would block transgender female student-athletes from women and girls’ sports – sending it closer to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk.
The House voted 60-39 Thursday afternoon to approve a conference committee’s changes to House Bill 112. Several minutes later, the Senate also approved the changes, 27-23. In both chambers, most Republicans voted in favor, with all Democrats opposed.
If the bill passes final votes in both chambers on Friday, it will move on to the governor.
HB 112 would require high school and college athletes in interscholastic, intramural or club sports to compete based on their “biological sex.” Supporters of the bill have said those athletes maintain an innate physical advantage even after undergoing gender transition treatment, while opponents say they aren’t causing problems and are being targeted unfairly.
The Senate initially added a provision to HB 112 that would void it if the federal government threatened to pull education funding from the state because it believed the law violated anti-discrimination rules. The conference committee changed that to keep the law in place until the state went through a full appeals process – which could take up to two years.
Sen. Ryan Lynch, D-Butte, said the new version was essentially just buying time for the state to be punitive. He also pointed to the NCAA’s statement that it could consider pulling playoff events from states that adopt this type of legislation.
Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, said the revised bill still ensured no federal money would be put at risk but would give Montana a chance to respond, and he suggested the NCAA would back off any threat to boycott the state.