2023 Legislation

01/30/2023 Written by Mickey Smotherman


In the 2023 Montana Legislative Session, SB 99 has been introduced, which is very similar to HB 427 & HB 113 (bills introduced in 2021, but failed to pass).  These pieces of legislation prohibit certain medical procedures and gender affirming health care for transgender and non-binary youth, based upon the misguided notion that the state government knows what is best for the protection of these youth – regardless of the advice and guidance of their parents and health care providers.  Specifically, SB 99 prohibits – without exception – 

(1)use of public funds for “medication or surgery as a treatment to address an inconsistency between a minor’s sex and the minor’s perceived gender or perceived sex”; (2) use of public funds “to promote or advocate” such medication or surgery; (3) payments for such medication or surgery as tax deductible; (3) reimbursement by Montana’s Medicaid program for such medication or surgery; (4) health care professionals employed by the state or local government from providing such medication or surgical services; (5) the promotion of such medication or surgery by employees of the state providing care for minors; and (6) the provision of certain specified medications or surgical procedures  to male and female minors, except when deemed necessary to treat certain physical characteristics existing since birth.

Further, any health care professional providing such services in violation of the law is at risk of a civil lawsuit and loss of his/her license to practice. In order to make up your own mind whether to support or oppose this legislation, you are urged to do your research.  A good starting point is to read about the testimony offered in a 5 hour hearing this past week (Jan. 27, 2023):   https://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/5-hour-hearing-shows-emotional-debate-over-bill-to-block-gender-care-for-trans-minors/article_571464cd-6f21-51af-9a88-ba4ca6252827.html#tracking-source=home-top-story.

What do professionals say about the importance of gender affirming health care?

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has published important info and statistics regarding the impact of this legislation on transgender and non-binary youth in MT: 

“AFSP opposes SB 99, which would prohibit gender-affirming care for LGBTQ youth, including hormone therapy. Gender-affirming care seeks to minimize the distress transgender people experience by providing a supportive, nonjudgmental environment that acknowledges the individual’s gender identity, or uncertainty about their gender identity.”

“A national 2022 survey conducted by the Trevor Project on LGBTQ youth mental health found that, among the nearly 34,000 LGBTQ teens and young adults ages 13-24 surveyed, 45% seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth. In Montana that number was even higher — 55% of our state’s LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting and 13% did attempt suicide in the past year.”

“Researchers largely agree that at least part of the reason for the elevated rates of suicidality (suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts) and poorer mental health found in LGBTQ people is the social stigma, prejudice, and discrimination associated with minority sexual orientation. This includes institutional discrimination resulting from laws and public policies that create inequities or fail to provide protections against sexual orientation-based discrimination.  93% of transgender and nonbinary youth across the country said that they have worried about transgender people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws.”

“The definition of gender-affirming care is a supportive model of care consisting of medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and nonbinary people. For children in particular, numerous factors are used to determine the appropriate intervention and the timing of those interventions, which vary from social affirmation and counseling to puberty blockers, hormone therapy, and in some cases gender-affirming surgeries.”

“While some lawmakers claim these bills are to protect youth, research supports a significant relationship between access to gender-affirming hormone therapy and lower rates of depression and suicidality among transgender and nonbinary youth. Access to pubertal suppression treatment is also associated with lower odds of lifetime suicidal ideation among transgender adults.”

“Every major medical, psychological, and psychiatric association agrees that withholding science-based treatments can be psychologically damaging, especially to youth who are struggling with their gender identity. Non-scientific healthcare standards dictated by policy makers have no place in clinical decision making and can only serve to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and prevent the provision of appropriate, supportive, life-affirming care.”

“AFSP stands with The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Psychological Association, all of which endorse gender-affirming standards of care and treatment derived from decades of scientific research and on-the-ground experience.”

For more info from ASFP, follow the link here: https://afsp.quorum.us/campaign/44480/

What do the UMC Social Principles have to say about affirmance of LBGTQ persons?

The Preamble to the Social Principles states that United Methodists “affirm our faith in the living God, who … created human beings in God’s own image.”  Further, “According to Jesus’ commandment, we are to love one another. ‘Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.’  Created in God’s image to live in covenant with God and the world, we honor the dignity of all beings and affirm the goodness of life.”  

How do we honor the dignity of LBGTQ persons created in God’s own image?  “We recognize that the Body of Christ has many parts, and all are valuable.  Thus, we respect differences within Christ’s Body, including differences in understanding and expressing faith, in gifts and practices of ministry, and in life experiences, as shaped by ethnicities, cultures, communities, abilities, age, sexual orientation and gender. We affirm our belief in the inestimable worth of each individual to whom God gives unique gifts.”  

01/23/2023 Written by Zak Wangler

Of all the thorny subjects that come up in conversations about local issues, the housing crisis that besets Gallatin Valley is a strong contender for the most contentious. Gallatin Valley has seen consistent growth over the last decade, with a strong surge since 2019 and through the pandemic years. For the most part, this growth is an opportunity to find new friends and neighbors and welcome them in peace and fellowship to this beautiful corner of God’s Creation we call home. 

However, with these bountiful opportunities come knock-on effects that continue to resonate throughout the community. The housing market remains extraordinarily tight, with a near zero rental vacancy rate, home values that price out many potential buyers and luxury apartments springing up throughout the city. As such, the many people are renting can often find themselves in quite precarious circumstances. 

Rental prices can obviously range wildly, but it is typical for a rental to go for between $800 and $1000 a bedroom at market rate. For college students or single individuals, this is quite expensive but for families and those on a fixed income these rates can prove prohibitive. As such, more reasonable rentals that become available are quickly flooded with dozens of applications. With every such hopeful applicant comes application fees, often between $25 and $60 per adult in the household. These fees are ostensibly used to cover the cost of background checks.

While it depends on each landlord and property management company, these fees are often charged with the submission of the application itself and are non-refundable. Therefore, it is not uncommon to spend several hundred dollars in application fees while searching for a suitable rental unit to simply be considered for the opportunity to be a tenant amongst a sea of other applicants. These fees provide an additional barrier to low- and middle-income people who are already being disproportionately squeezed by high rent and other cost of living increases.House Bill 233 would require that landlords refund the cost of the application fee to the applicant if their application is not accepted, barring the actual cost of the background check. In doing so, it would allow people in search of reasonable accommodation to save more money to put towards other necessities. The cost of moving can already be quite steep, if one can find a rental to move into. This bill would help alleviate some of that burden for the people that Gallatin Valley relies on to survive.

Following are updates on bills SJAT is following.  If you wish to express your opinion regarding a specific bill to up to five legislators or to an entire committee, an easy way is to phone the friendly Capitol operators at (406) 444-4800.  You will need to identify yourself, tell the operator to whom you want a message sent and whether you want a Yes or No vote.

HB 233 was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on January 17, but was not voted upon.

LGBTQ+ Rights
SB 99 would harm current and future trans, non-binary and two-spirit youth by taking away their access to lifesaving, gender-affirming healthcare.  Educators, health care professionals, and therapists would be severely punished for supporting trans youth in any way.  Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but a hearing has been postponed several times.

Indigenous Sovereignty
HB 18 to develop and fund comprehensive missing persons response teams flew out of committee and handily passed both votes on the House floor.  Transmitted to the Senate and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 163 to extend the state’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Task Force to 2025 passed 19-0 in the House Judiciary Committee and will now go for readings on the House floor.

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