Montana lawmakers heard a pair of bills this week that, if passed into law, would restrict transgender athletes from competing outside of their designated biological sex. They may also indirectly prevent the state from hosting NCAA postseason events.
As reported by MTN Sports, HB 112, which is named the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” would not allow male-to-female transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports. HB 113, named the "Youth Health Protection Act,” would “prohibit certain medications and medical procedures for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors, while also establishing a civil penalty for healthcare providers providing prohibited treatment.”
While only one known case of male-to-female athletic changes has happened at either the University of Montana or Montana State University, none are known in the high school ranks or lower, which HB 112 would directly affect. Montana High School Association executive director Mark Beckman told MTN last week that the MHSA is one of few states that currently does not have a policy in place regarding transgender athletes.
Along with its restrictions to transgender athletes in Montana, according to UM associate athletic director Jean Gee, if the bill was put into effect, it would have a wide-ranging impact that could halt Montana or Montana State from hosting playoff football games and more.
"The biggest issue for us, and MSU, would be hosting football playoffs because we have such a long tradition of hosting those, as well as now MSU," Gee told MTN. "If we did have this bill in effect, I can only guess that the NCAA would still hold to what they have done in the past and really have to look at whether they can host those events in the state of Montana."
North Carolina's "bathroom bill" in 2016 prohibited transgender people from using restrooms that aligned with their gender identity, leading the NCAA to pull seven championships out of the state, including NCAA men's basketball tournament games.
By looking at past NCAA practices, Gee said it is likely the NCAA could take similar measures in Montana over the transgender legislation, potentially impacting FCS playoff football games, Big Sky soccer tournament games which UM could host, along with track and field events, and more.
"In this case we have a couple of policies in play," Gee explained. "We have the overarching philosophy of the NCAA of being inclusive, promoting diversity, and then the championship-hosting policy that looks specifically at those same issues, and then providing a safe environment for all to participate."
Gee noted that a bill introduced in Idaho is often compared to Montana's, and how the NCAA Board of Governors said that bill went against NCAA values and philosophies. Many called for Idaho's hosting of 2021 NCAA tournament games to be pulled, similar to North Carolina. The NCAA tabled the discussion in August, and then it was recently announced that the 2021 NCAA men's tournament would be held entirely in Indiana due to the COVID-19 pandemic.