- Greg Gianforte, the governor of Montana, signed the law defining gender as male and female only in the state.
- LGBTQ+ advocates argue that Montana’s law denies non-binary and transgender people legal recognition
- Medical professionals say Montana’s law also ignores the existence of people born as intersex, where people’s reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormone levels do not fall below the typical definitions of male and female.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill that defines the word “sex” in state law as male or female only – joining Kansas and Tennessee, which have similar laws that advocates of LGBTQ+ that would deny legal recognition to non-binary and transgender people.
Medical professionals say the laws also ignore that some people are born intersex – a term that covers about 60 conditions in which a person is born with genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes and/or hormone levels that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female.
The bill’s sponsor said the amendment was necessary to clarify from a legal standpoint that “sex” and “gender” do not mean the same thing.
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The Montana bill “is an attempt to erase trans, nonbinary and two-spirit people from the code, thereby removing the rights, privileges and considerations that trans, nonbinary and two-spirit people are entitled to under the law, ” said SK Rossi last month, testifying against the legislation for the Human Rights Campaign.
“Two-spirit” is a Native American term for people who have both a male and a female spirit.
The bill, signed by Gianforte on Friday, was approved during a legislative session that also passed a ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors and saw the transgender Democratic lawmaker Rep. which silenced him.
Other states have or are considering adopting legislation similar to Montana’s, to define “sex,” which would prevent residents from changing the labels that identify their birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Kansas and Tennessee’s laws are scheduled to take effect on July 1, while Montana’s is slated to take effect on October 1.
Transgender people choose to change the gender on their birth certificate and driver’s license so that their documentation matches their identity.
Lauren Wilson, president of the Montana chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians, said the bill’s statement that there are exactly two sexes is not true from a medical perspective.
The bill defines a woman as having an XX chromosome, and a reproductive and endocrine system that produces or produces ova, or eggs. A male is defined as having XY chromosomes and a biological system that produces or produces sperm.
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The bill was amended to say that anyone who would fall under the definition of male or female, “but for a biological or genetic condition,” would fall under the initial determination of male or female.
“The amendment that was added to address intersex people actually made the bill inaccurate as well,” Wilson said.
A bill before the Texas legislature has been amended to allow a delay in reporting a child’s biological sex if it cannot be determined at birth.
Montana’s bill “has no basis in science and seeks to reduce each of our existence in our reproductive capacity,” argued Keegan Medrano, the policy director for the ACLU of Montana.
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The sponsor of the bill, Republican Sen. Carl Glimm, said the legislation is needed after a 2022 court decision in which a state ruling said transgender residents could change the gender markers on their birth certificates. That ruling — which combined gender with sex — blocked a bill Glimm sponsored last year that would have only allowed a birth certificate to be changed if the person had undergone a gender-affirming surgical procedure. .
The Montana health department later passed a rule stating that no changes can be made to the listed gender on a resident’s birth certificate unless it was incorrectly recorded due to an error in the transcription.
A person’s biological sex cannot be changed, Glimm argued, in presenting his bill to the House Judiciary Committee last month.
“You can claim that you can change your gender or express your gender in a different way, but you can’t change your biological sex,” she said.