Montana governor signs ban on gender-affirming healthcare as hundreds march to support trans lawmaker Zooey Zephyr

A split image of Montana governor Greg Gianforte and trans representative Zooey Zephyr.

A ban on gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth has been officially signed into Montana law just days after state officials censured its only trans politician.

Republican Montana governor Greg Gianforte signed the highly controversial Senate Bill 99 into law on Friday (28 April) after it passed the final hurdle in a House vote earlier this month.

The bill, also known as the Provide for a Youth Health Protection Act, aims to halt gender-affirming care for under-18s by preventing access to physically reversible puberty blockers.

It also bans “surgical procedures,” which no private or public healthcare system currently practices on under-18s.

Gianforte’s signing of SB99 came amid protests in Missoula, Montana by LGBTQ+ activists calling for the government to rescind its censure of politician Zooey Zephyr.

Prior to the bill’s final vote, the state’s only trans representative urged lawmakers to reconsider their approval of the law in a powerful speech where she accused anti-trans lawmakers of having “blood on their hands”.

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“If you disallow the use of the medical care that is accepted by every major medical association … the only therapy left is either meaningless, or conversion therapy, which is torture.”

She was reprimanded for her speech days later by House speaker Matt Regier, who said he refuses to acknowledge her during floor debates going forward unless she apologises for the speech.

As a result, activists protested in the observation deck of Montana’s state capitol, chanting to “let her speak” as riot police attempted to disperse the crowd, arresting seven of the protestors.

The controversy culminated in a House vote to effectively ban Zephyr from House debates entirely.

Lawmakers approved an order that means Zephyr is no longer able to speak during House floor debates, or participate in House business for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session.

In a statement following the vote, she wrote: “Though the Republican supermajority has voted to strip me of my ability to partake in debate, I remain steadfast in my commitment to my community.

“I will continue to make the difficult moral choices necessary to stand up for the people who entrusted me with their representation. My gratitude for those who spoke out on these principles is boundless, and I pledge to always stand up for them.”

Montana governor’s non-binary child lobbies to reject anti-trans bills.

Zephyr wasn’t alone in pushing back against the anti-trans bill and so many others like it. Greg Gianforte’s non-binary child urged the governor to reconsider his signing of the bill.

David Gianforte told the Montana Free Press that they felt an obligation to stand up for LGBTQ+ people in the state following the passing of the bill.

“There are a lot of important issues passing through the legislature right now,” they said. “For my own sake, I’ve chosen to focus primarily on transgender rights, as that would significantly directly affect a number of my friends.

“I would like to make the argument that these bills are immoral, unjust, and frankly a violation of human rights.”

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte speaking in a warehouse.
The Montana governor’s non-binary child urged him to reconsider the anti-trans bills being approved in the state. (Getty)

Despite their best efforts, David admitted that they didn’t expect the bill’s outcome to be altered, but hoped that their words would inspire change in the future.

“I feel like I have a voice and I can be heard, and I feel, not only in communicating with my father, that’s not necessarily the main point, but also just showing support for the transgender community in Montana.

“I think that could be meaningful, especially at this time.”

The governor responded by asking David “when can we get together and talk about it?” shortly before signing the bill.