Montana Judge Blocks Gender Affirming Care For Minors

A state judge in Montana struck a block to Republican legislation this week, placing a temporary block on a law that would ban minors from getting transgender surgeries.

On Wednesday, District Court Judge Jason Marks issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which would ban transgender surgical procedures, cross-sex hormone treatment and puberty blocks for minors who have gender dysphoria. The law was set to go into effect on October 1.

In his ruling, Marks said that the Youth Health Protection Act is likely in violation of the Equal Protection Clause in Montana, since it classifies people on the basis of their status as a transgender person, which would essentially make it a classification based on sex.

In addition, he ruled that the law infringes on people’s fundamental rights. He further argued the law wouldn’t survive any strict scrutiny because it doesn’t serve the “purported compelling governmental interests of protecting minor Montanans from pressure to receive harmful medical treatments.”

He also said it wouldn’t survive constitutional review. Marks even took it one step more, saying the law is likely in violation of rights to privacy that the plaintiffs are granted by Montana’s constitution, since the procedures that the law would ban aren’t “medically acknowledged [as] bona fide health risks.”

In response to the ruling, Austin Knudsen, the attorney general for Montana who is leading the fight in favor of having the law go into effect, said:

“This is a preliminary matter at this point. We look forward to presenting our complete factual and legal argument to protect Montana children from harmful, life-altering medications and surgeries. Because of the irreversible and immediate harms that the procedures have on children, we will be filing a notice of appeal today.”

The ruling on Wednesday gives the plaintiffs a temporary win. The suit was brought by two children who identify as transgender and their parents, along with two other medical providers. It was filed back in May by Lambda Legal, the ACLU of Montana, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Their argument is that the law doesn’t serve a purpose other than to “intentionally burden a transgender person’s ability to seek necessary care to align their body with their gender identity.”

The ACLU also argued that the treatments that are done for gender dysphoria actually meet all care standards that are approved by medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association.

There was a lot of drama during the lead-up to the bill being passed through the state legislature and then signed by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte.

During the debate, Representative Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat who is transgender, told lawmakers who approved the bill that “when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”
She also said then denying this treatment to minors was “tantamount to torture,” and would eventually lead to a lot of suicides.

Zephyr was censured over these actions and comments.