MISSOULA - The Human Rights Campaign hosted a Zoom conference with legislatures and parents on Monday, May 15, 2023, to discuss the various legislative acts that have passed in four different states, eliminating legal protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination.
Human Rights Campaign President Kelly Robinson says extreme lawmakers are trying to reverse progress and push LGBTQ+ people “back into the closet.”
“We are here to sound an alarm,” Robinson said. “The anti-equality forces are on the move.”
Robinson said these new bills will force transgender and non-binary people to be constantly misgendered and will put pressure on the state's legal and economic systems.
Specifically for Montana, Robinson said the bills restricting health care for transgender people put $7.5 billion of federal funding at risk.
Robinson called the speakers on the call “heroes” who are saving people’s lives by fighting against anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Among those speakers was Montana House Representative Zooey Zephyr of Missoula who explained the wide effects of the anti-trans bills in Montana — specifically Senate Bill 458, which defines sex in the state.
The bill will prevent trans people from getting gender-affirming documentation, including birth certificates, driver's licenses, marriage certificates, and even death certificates.
“I describe it as discrimination from cradle to grave,” Zephyr said.
She said Senate Bill 458 has such a wide reach that it could ultimately affect a large population of Montanans — outside of the LGBTQ+ community.
Zephyr says the bill would open the door to making gay marriage illegal and restrict intersex children who are sexually assaulted from prosecuting their assailant.
“I think what we see here, ultimately, is what the extremists on the right are willing to throw away to achieve these goals,” she said. “Who will they harm on the road to trans people? It’s the vast majority of Americans.”
Zephyr asked the sponsor of Bill 458, Senator Carl Glimm of Kila, for clarification on a particular section of code that would allow a person that was assigned male but produces eggs to sell those eggs for human cloning.
Zephyr said when she asked the sponsor about this section, Glimm said he did not understand the section of code or exactly who it would affect.
“They do not know what these bills do, but the goal is, to eliminate trans people, non-binary people, from public life entirely,” Zephyr said.
Zephyr later addressed the connection between restricting abortion access and restricting health care for transgender people, saying both decisions were an invasion of privacy.
Along with Zephyr, Kansas Representative Brandon Woodard spoke on bills in his own state that he said are “erasing trans people.”
Chris Sanders with the Tennessee Equality Project also added to the conversation, saying the anti-LGBTQ+ bills "laid a minefield” with a wide range of effects. He urged the media to continue coverage of these bills.
A parent from Montana, who wished to be addressed only as Amy, spoke on her experience raising a trans child.
She says despite her love for Montana, her family is prepared to leave the state to protect her daughter, “That’s what you do as a parent. You do everything to keep your child safe."
Amy called the bills “deadly legislation” and said she is scared for the families that do not have the option to leave the state.
Four states are looking to pass anti-transgender bills.
Kansas and North Dakota have already enacted their bills, while Montana and Tennessee are awaiting a final signature from their respective governors, according to Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow.
Warbelow said during the conference that these bills undermine federal civil rights laws.
She said the next step for the Human Rights Campaign will be to encourage people in these states to file complaints to The White House and the Department of Justice to intervene.