District Court judge rules three laws, including trans-athlete ban, unconstitutional

By: - September 20, 2022 5:12 pm

A district court judge struck down three laws that passed in the 2021 Montana Legislature related to college campuses, ruling them unconstitutional, according to a filing in Gallatin County last week.

The three bills included the controversial House Bill 112, which banned transgender athletes from participating in collegiate women’s sports, House Bill 349 related to speech on campus, and Senate Bill 319 related to student political organizations and campaign finance on campus.

Judge Rienne H. McElyea ruled that the three bills similarly infringe on the authority of the Board of Regents, the governing body over the Montana University system, outlined in Article Ten, section nine of Montana’s Constitution.

“None of the bills at issue in this case can be fairly characterized as neutral laws of statewide concern,” the filing read. “Each attempts to directly control internal university affairs and inject legislative policy judgments into (Montana University System) administration, contrary to the letter and intent of the Montana Constitution.”

Montana Federation of Public Employees, one of the plaintiffs in the case, issued a release celebrating the decision, with MFPE President Amanda Curtis saying the legislature “needs to stay in its lane.”

“MFPE has a long history defending constitutional rights for all Montanans,” said MFPE President Amanda Curtis in the release. “I’m not surprised the court found that the legislature cannot infringe on the Board of Regents’ constitutional authority to govern Montana’s campuses.”

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.