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SB 458 comes with moral, financial cost

| March 23, 2023 12:00 AM

For over an hour and a half, over 40 Montanans – overwhelmingly young Montanans – showed up to the Capitol to express in detail the suffering and pain that SB 458 will cause them. Instead of taking seriously the trauma and damage inflicted on so many Montanans, Republicans chose to proceed with this bill that targets one community, making them less before the law.

Introduced by Republican Sen. Carl Glimm, SB 458 is a 61-page-bill that creates an impossibly narrow and embarrassingly unscientific definition of “sex” in Montana law. It affects over 40 parts of Montana code while aiming to erase the ability of tens of thousands of trans, nonbinary, Two-Spirit, and intersex Montanans’ to live their lives freely.

SB 458 was poorly written, rushed through the legislative process, and will have devastating financial consequences for Montana.

The sponsor of the bill has insisted this bill is necessary because sex and gender have been used interchangeably in the law, but the reality is that our understanding of sex and gender have changed, growing more complex as technology, social structures, and our understanding of biology have evolved. Driven by misinformation, this bill doesn’t just equate sex and gender but eliminates gender entirely while equating everything in Montana law to a person’s reproductive capacity.

Despite the ripple effect of this massive bill, sprawling into over 40 parts of Montana code and touching everything from legal documentation to health insurance, Republicans jammed SB 458 through the legislative process unphased by red flags, structural flaws and the fiscal impact.

While a fiscal note provided by the Budget Office showed no fiscal impact, it was quickly discovered that at least two agencies raised serious concerns about how much the bill could cost the state.

In one instance, the fiscal analysis written by Montana’s University System described how SB 458 will create conflicts with federal law, including Title IX and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The consequence is Montana’s public colleges and universities being cut off from federal funding.

As legislators we neglected our responsibility to fully understand the bills that come before us, and it is going to come with a price: potentially billions of dollars in federal funding for the state of Montana.

Financially, the cost of SB 458 could be billions. Morally, however, the cost to Montana will be immeasurable.

Sen. Jen Gross (D-Billings)

Sen. Susan Webber (D-Browning)