Metro Weekly

Montana Republicans tried — and failed — to pass anti-trans legislation

Bill would have made it harder for transgender people to change their gender markers on their birth certificates

Montana State Capitol – Photo: Martin Kraft, via Wikimedia.

Montana Republicans have failed in an attempt to make it more difficult for transgender people to have their correct gender identity reflected on their birth certificate.

SB 10, a bill sponsored by State Sen. Albert Olszewski (R-Kalispell), would have reversed a proposed rule change by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services that will allow people to change their birth certificate without undergoing gender confirmation surgery.

The bill also would have required any amended certificate to include a person’s original name at birth — which could potentially put transgender people at risk of being discriminated against by employers or state workers who access a copy of their birth certificate.

Republicans dedicated part of their limited time during a special legislative session to push SB 10 through the Senate. Despite all Democrats and two Republicans voting against it, the bill passed.

However, the special session ended before House lawmakers could approve their own version of the bill, rendering moot the Senate’s success.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, took Senate Republicans to task for passing the bill.

“The Montana Senate is failing all their constituents by focusing their efforts on discrimination and bigotry during an emergency special session to fix the state budget,” she said in a statement. “This bill is a clear effort to walk back progress and create complicated and discriminatory roadblocks for trans Montanans seeking documents that accurately reflect who they are.”

It is unclear whether Montana Republicans will attempt to repeal the rule change in future, but such a move will likely be predicated on whether they believe they can pass a bill targeting the transgender community without incurring the wrath of the business community.

Future legislative attempts may also depend on the fate of an ongoing push for a statewide ballot initiative in 2018 that would restrict transgender people to using only the bathroom matching their biological sex at birth.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com