HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A bill that would ban transgender females from competing on female sports teams sponsored by public schools and universities passed the Montana House on a 61-38 vote Wednesday.
It now advances to the Senate.
Rep. John Fuller, R-Whitefish, said his bill was meant to protect the opportunity of females to compete in sports without being forced to compete against males or to lose their spot to a male.
Opponents argued the bill was discriminatory, violated the rights of transgender females and that the state could lose federal education funding.
Idaho's legislature passed a similar bill last year, which was blocked by a federal judge and has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Rep. Bill Mercer, R-Billings, a former U.S. attorney, said Tuesday the state of Montana filed a brief in support of Idaho's statute.
Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, called the bill a solution looking for a problem. The Montana School Boards Association doesn't have a policy on transgender athletes and the executive director of the Montana High School Association reported the issue hasn't arisen in his 24 years on the job, Custer said.
The NCAA has a policy allowing biological males who are transitioning to females to compete on women's college teams only after 12 months of hormone therapy. Biological females who are transitioning to males can compete on either the women's team or the men's team if they are not taking hormones, and can only compete on the men's team if they are taking testosterone, under the NCAA policy.
Fuller also asked the House to reconsider his bill to prohibit doctors from providing gender-affirming care for transgender youth. The bill failed 51-49 on third reading Tuesday and the motion to reconsider was rejected 53-46.