Montana's Potential Loss of $250M in Federal Funds Leads to Amendment of Transgender Athlete Bill

Montana lawmakers amended a controversial bill on Tuesday that would ban transgender athletes from competing in school and college sports according to the gender with which they identify, the Associated Press reported.

The state measure, which has received approval in Montana's House and Senate, now faces new obstacles due to an executive order from President Joe Biden banning gender-based discrimination. In Montana, universities receive roughly $350 million from federal funding, $250 million of which goes to student loans and grants to cover tuition costs, AP said.

University officials warned that the stipulations of Biden's order imperiled that $250 million, prompting a GOP-dominated committee of Montana House and Senate members to vote to amend. The amended bill would allow for the policy's reversal after the state completes a full appeal process of federal decisions to withhold funding.

"You have a human right not to be discriminated against, but you do not have a sports right," bill sponsor Montana GOP state Representative John Fuller said Tuesday.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Rally in Support of Transgender People
Montana lawmakers amended a controversial bill on Tuesday that would ban transgender athletes from competing in school and college sports according to the gender with which they identify, the Associated Press reported. In the photo, LGBT activists and their supporters rally in support of transgender people on the steps of New York City Hall, October 24, 2018 in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Opponents of the bill protested outside the Montana state capitol building in Helena on Monday. It's one of a pattern of legislation seeking to ban transgender athletes from school sports in more than 20 states, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The measure heads to a final vote by the House and Senate before advancing to the desk of Republican Governor Greg Gianforte.

Gianforte has not commented on whether he supports the measure or another bill also advancing this year that would ban gender-affirming surgery for transgender minors in the state.

In Idaho, a similar law was blocked by a court ruling last year.

Supporters of the Montana measure say it will keep the playing field fair in women's sports.

Opponents—including students, athletes and human rights advocates—said the measure would further harm already marginalized transgender youth in the state.

"The fact that we are spending a single moment deciding who's allowed to play sports as a kid in a way that's going to require coaches and people on those teams to do invasive privacy-destroying genital exams is shocking to me," Democratic state Senator Bryce Bennett said.

Opponents have also raised concern over statements by the NCAA that the organization would revoke the opportunity to host championship events in states where such laws have been enacted, including popular football events in Montana's two largest universities.

"Some of our best and brightest athletes may be really compromised by this bill," Democratic state Representative Tom France said.