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MT healthcare providers, families challenge law banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth

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Posted at 11:00 AM, May 09, 2023

HELENA – A lawsuit has been filed in Missoula challenging a new Montana law banning transgender youth from accessing age-appropriate gender-affirming healthcare.

In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Montana, Lambda Legal, and Perkins Coie, two families with transgender youth and two medical providers who work with transgender youth are challenging Senate Bill 99, signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte in April 2023, which bans the only evidence-based care for gender dysphoria for transgender people under 18, a news release states.

The plaintiffs claim the law violates their rights under the Montana Constitution, including the right to equal protection and the right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children.
The plaintiffs include Jessica and Ewout van Garderen and their 16-year-old transgender daughter Scarlet, Molly and Paul Cross and their 15-year-old transgender son Phoebe, Dr. Juanita Hodax of Community Medical Center, and Dr. Katy Mistretta of Bozeman Creek Family Health.

"It is mentally and physically painful to feel like you are trapped in the wrong body,” said Jessica van Garderen, mother of a transgender daughter. “Going through puberty for the wrong sex is like having your body betray you on a daily basis. The only treatment we have found to be effective and give our daughter hope again is hormone therapy. The difference we have experienced is night and day and there is no going back. Taking away this crucial medical care is inhumane and a violation of our rights. We will fight this law for our daughter and every other family whose rights are being trampled."

“I will never understand why my representatives are working to strip me of my rights and the rights of other transgender kids,” said Phoebe Cross, a 15-year-old transgender boy. “Just living as a trans teenager is difficult enough, the last thing me and my peers need is to have our rights taken away. There were many things I hoped my elected officials would achieve, this regression in human rights is not one of those things. The blatant disrespect for my humanity and existence is deeply unsettling.”

“SB 99 is a cruel broadside against the rights of transgender youth, their families, and their medical providers,” said Malita Picasso, Staff Attorney for the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project. “Politicians have no right to put themselves between patients and their doctors, and this law threatens the future of thousands of trans youth across the state. We’re confident this law will fall apart completely under the scrutiny of the court and we welcome this opportunity to defend trans youth and their families from this dangerous political attack.”

“We’ve entered a new era of competitive cruelty where politicians are trying to outdo one another in discrimination, as illustrated by the governor’s initial veto of the ban because it just wasn’t vicious enough,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Peter Renn. “This law represents government overreach on steroids. The families targeted here have worked closely and carefully with qualified healthcare professionals to access the care they need. It is reprehensible that politicians would barge into exam rooms to rip away life-saving treatment, in total defiance of science and medicine, after parents have finally found stability and hope for their children’s future.”

The filing in full can be found at https://wp.api.aclu.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/1-Complaint.pdf.