HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Friday requiring a person to have gender reassignment surgery before changing the sex marker on their birth certificate, despite outcry from opponents who say it targets already marginalized transgender people in Montana.
Republican bill sponsor Sen. Carl Glimm argued earlier this year that the state health department overstepped its authority in changing the designation on a birth certificate from “sex” to “gender” and then in setting rules for how it could be changed. He said birth certificates contain vital statistics and should be based on the facts at the time of birth.
Opponents of the measure said that less than half of transgender people undergo surgery.
“They want one simple thing, on a piece of paper they want a letter to change,” Democratic Sen. Bryce Bennett said during a hearing on the bill.
The Republican-controlled Legislature also passed a bill that would ban transgender athletes from playing according to the gender with which they identify in school and college sports. Similar bills have been signed in several Republican-controlled states this year, including Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and West Virginia.
Gianforte said Friday he has not yet decided whether to sign the measure into law.
“This is an issue that evokes a lot of passion on both sides,” Gianforte said about the sports bill. “I’ve met with transgender students, I’ve met with transgender parents, I’ve met with women athletes. We’ve been taking input from all sides of this.”
Samuels is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.