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Montana Judge Rules Transgender Sports Rules Unconstitutional

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HELENA – A Montana judge has ruled that three laws passed by Montana’s Republican-controlled Congress to regulate activities on college campuses are unconstitutional. These included attempts to ban transgender women from participating in college women’s college sports teams.

Montana’s constitution gives the state’s board of trustees full authority to govern public college campuses and prevents state legislators from imposing their own rules, District Court Judge Rienne McElyea said Wednesday. Her ruling was emailed to lawyers in the case on Friday. He noted that he had upheld the same conclusion in his opposition.

The ruling is the second judicial setback of the week against a law passed by the Montana legislature in 2021 affecting transgender residents. Another state judge revealed Thursday that he had temporarily blocked health officials from enforcing a state rule that would ban transgender people from changing the gender on their birth certificates. on Thursday, the Republican-run state said it would defy the order.

The ruling came amid heated debate nationwide over whether transgender women should be allowed to participate in women’s sports at the high school and college levels.

At least a dozen Republican-led states have passed laws banning transgender women and girls in sports on the premise that they give them an unfair competitive advantage. Transgender rights advocates counter that the rules aren’t just for sports, but another way to insult and attack transgender people.

In May 2021, former members of the state board of trustees, former commissioners of the Higher Education Commission, and others challenged the Montana law. Not specifically for its content, but to make clear that the Council, not the State Legislature, has the power to set campus policy. .

The transgender women’s sports bill is not believed to have affected anyone’s participation in sports while it was in force, said Jeff Tierney, an attorney for plaintiffs including the Montana Civil Service Federation. rice field.

“Congress needs to stay in the flow,” said union president Amanda Curtis.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican whose office defended the law, is reviewing the ruling to determine the administration’s next steps, a spokesperson for the office said. Emily Cantrell said.

In a statement, Cantrell said, “The court has again stripped Montana of its tax-funding powers for campuses exercised through elected representatives and given greater powers to unelected campus administrators. ‘He said.

Another bill declared unconstitutional by the ruling appeared to target the Montana Public Interest Research Group, a student-run advocacy group that registers people to vote and encourages civic engagement. , was intended to make it more difficult for organizations to receive money from student tuition and to limit where on campus voters can register and participate in voting activities.

Because of the bill, Monpirgue was not allowed to register as a political committee or to lobby, said Adrian Cook, president of the student-run organization. He said Friday that the group hopes to ask the board of trustees to lift those restrictions because of the ruling.

A third law, held unconstitutional, bans campuses from providing meeting places and other resources to religious, political, or ideological student organizations, even if others hold views they find offensive. requested.

In December 2021, the board won a challenge to a law allowing more people to carry guns on college campuses. The Montana Supreme Court upheld his ruling in late June, agreeing that the board has authority to oversee campus policy.