Montana governor’s nonbinary son urges him to reject anti-trans bills

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In a front line state in the escalating US culture war over transgender rights, a son made a personal plea to his powerful father on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

David Gianforte, 32, who uses he and they pronouns and identifies as nonbinary, is the son of Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte.

The father and son sat down in the governor’s office on March 27, as reported in The Montana Free Press, for a personal meeting that shines light on the growing divisions across the country over transgender issues and legislation aimed at restricting transition health care and codifying binary definitions of sex and gender.

David Gianforte told the nonprofit news organization that he requested the meeting with the governor “as your constituent and your son” via email.

The reason for the sit-down was to ask Greg Gianforte to veto legislation such as a state senate bill that would ban gender-affirming medical and surgical care for transgender minors, codify binary definitions of sex and gender, and prohibit minors from attending adult-oriented shows at state-funded libraries or schools, and prohibit minors from attending adult-oriented shows at state-funded libraries or schools and adult-oriented performances in adult-oriented businesses, according to the Free Press.

At the meeting, the younger Gianforte read from a prepared statement, according to the Free Press: “Hey Dad. Thanks for setting aside time to meet with me, it means a lot to me.”

He added, “There are a lot of important issues passing through the legislature right now. For my own sake I’ve chosen to focus primarily on transgender rights, as that would significantly directly affect a number of my friends… I would like to make the argument that these bills are immoral, unjust, and frankly a violation of human rights.”

So far, the bill banning gender-affirming health care for minors is the first to reach Gianforte’s desk, according to the Free Press. It awaits his signature or veto.

“I felt somewhat of an obligation to speak with him about it. Otherwise I would regret the missed opportunity,” David Gianforte said in the Free Press interview published on Wednesday.

The governor had responded to his son’s request for a meeting hours after receiving the email, according to the Free Press.

“I would like to better understand your thoughts and concerns. When can we get together to talk about it?” the elder Gianforte wrote. The governor closed the email with, “Love, Dad,” the Free Press reported.

David Gianforte told CNN he is “not intending to give additional interviews at this time.”

The governor’s deputy communications director, Brooke Metrione, referred CNN to a statement in the Free Press.

“The governor loves his family and values their thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. Our office will not discuss private conversations between the governor and members of his family,” the statement said.

The meeting between the governor and his son comes at a time when more than 400 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the US – more than twice the number introduced all of last year, according to American Civil Liberties Union data as of April 3.

Specifically, the number of education and health care-related bills has reached unprecedented levels. In addition to a renewed push to ban access to gender-affirming health care for transgender youth, other bills focus heavily on regulating curriculum in public schools – including discussions around gender identity and sexuality.

On Wednesday, Montana’s Republican-dominated House voted to ban Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who had said GOP lawmakers would have “blood” on their hands for passing bills restricting transgender rights. Zephyr rallied protesters on Monday after Speaker Matt Regier blocked her from being recognized to speak from the House chamber for the remainder of this year’s legislative session.

Zephyr, a 34-year-old Democrat from Missoula, last year became the first woman who identifies as transgender elected to Montana’s legislature.

Under the disciplinary measure, Zephyr will be allowed to retain her seat and cast votes remotely. But she will not be able to participate in debates.

“We have a week and a half left of the session, and we’ll be covering important topics — housing bills, the state’s budget — and every bill that goes forward for the remainder of this session, there will be 11,000 Montanans whose representative is missing, whose voices cannot be heard on those bills,” Zephyr told CNN on Wednesday.

David Gianforte last week defended Zephyr on Twitter:

“I stand in support of @ZoAndBehold and the entire LGBTQ+ community of Montana, which includes myself and many of my friends. I have worked to oppose bills in the current MT Legislative session.”

The elder Gianforte, who was sworn in as governor in 2021, has four children. David Gianforte said in the interview that he first told his parents he was gay in 2020.

The governor’s son told the Free Press he didn’t expect his public statements or sit-down at the State Capitol in Helena to halt the controversial bills from becoming law.

“He is concerned about his career,” David Gianforte told the news organization. “He has particular issues that he focuses on, such as jobs and the economy. And he’s aware that being able to stay in the position of governor is dependent on him staying in favor of the Republican Party. And I believe that that affects his decisions on some of these bills.”

David Gianforte told the Free Press he urged his father to treat the transgender community in Montana with empathy and compassion. To talk “about compassion toward children, the youth of Montana, while simultaneously taking away health care from the youth,” David Gianforte said, was “basically a contradiction in my mind.”


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