HELENA — A bill that would require public school athletic teams in Montana to be designated based on biological sex will be heard before the House Judiciary Committee at the Capitol on Monday, according to the bill’s sponsor.
Rep. John Fuller, a Republican from Whitefish, is introducing House Bill 112, which would affect student-athletes at public elementary schools and high schools as well as colleges. The bill, also named the “Save Women’s Sports Act”, cites “inherent differences between men and women” and would rule that athletic teams or sports designated for females, women or girls may not be open to students of the male sex.
“I’m introducing this bill to save women’s sports,” Fuller said in a phone interview with MTN. “The reality is that we’re not going to be dealing with a lot of massive numbers of transgender sports, but … the injustice of young women being denied athletic opportunity is enough to warrant such a bill.”
“If we’re interested in preserving the intent of Title IX, then we need to stop this practice of allowing transgender males competing against females. That’s why I brought this bill,” Fuller added.
Few issues, if any, have stemmed from transgender athletes competing in Montana. In fact, issues are so rare at the high school level that the Montana High School Association doesn’t even have a transgender policy. MHSA executive director Mark Beckman said he believes Montana is one of only six states without a policy.
“The Montana High School Association is aware of HB 112 and will continue to monitor this bill through the legislative session,” Beckman said in a prepared statement. “Montana schools will follow Title IX and the Ridgeway et. al. v. Montana High School Association et. al. Settlement Agreement regarding participation in sanctioned sports and will await clarification from the legislature and/or judicial authorities regarding the application of HB 112 to participation in sanctioned sports in Montana.”
HB 112 would affect more than just Montana’s high schools, though, and Fuller cited one of Montana’s notable college athletes. June Eastwood made history in 2019 as the first male-to-female transgender athlete to compete in an NCAA Division I cross country race, and then won the mile at the 2020 Big Sky Conference women’s indoor track and field championships. Eastwood graduated from Belgrade High School in 2015 as Jonathan Eastwood and a four-time high school boys track and field state champion.
The NCAA does have a policy in place to allow transgender athletes to compete. A trans female athlete can compete on a women’s team only after completing one year of testosterone suppression treatment. The NAIA has a similar policy in place.
“What I’ve seen occurring in recent years, I think will spell the end of Title IX intent to provide equal access for young women in athletic competition, because, as the findings of my bill demonstrate, having males, even if they are undergoing hormone treatments, compete with females are at an inherent physiological advantage," said Fuller, who said he has more than 50 years of experience in the athletic arena, including years as a competitor, coach, trainer and manager.
Fuller was a noted high school wrestling coach in Illinois before moving to the Flathead Valley in the 1990s. In Montana, he has previously been a teacher and coach at Flathead High School in Kalispell.
Fuller has been a member of the Montana House of Representatives since 2019.