This week, a district court judge in Bozeman, Montana has permanently banned Montana from enforcing a 2021 prohibition on transgender athletes participating in women’s sports at college, ruling that the legislation is unconstitutional, according to Montana Free Press.
The court order, which was issued on Wednesday by Gallatin County District Court Judge Rienne McElyea, was issued one week after a several rounds of oral arguments were made in a legal challenge brought by the Montana Federation of Public Employees, the Montana Public Interest Research Group and several individuals across multiple universities.
House Bill 112, which was the transgender sports law, was rejected by the district judge along with two other laws: House Bill 349, which prevented campuses from limiting support for student groups based on the groups’ activities or beliefs, and Senate Bill 319, which increased restrictions on political activities on campuses.
McElyea rejected all three laws, writing in her ruling that “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.”
Kyle Schmauch, who is the spokesperson for the Legislature’s Republican leadership, referred to the court’s ruling as a “slippery slope.”
Schmauch continued, “Now we’re starting to see that play out. The courts seem to be embracing the constitutionally dubious theory that unelected bureaucrats have complete power over every aspect of Montana’s university system, including matters totally independent of academic freedom. Montanans should understand that the courts are striking down the will of their elected representatives while handing more power to unelected bureaucrats.”
The Montana Department of Justice echoed these sentiments, with press secretary Emilee Cantrell saying in an email email that Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s is currently reviewing McElyea’s order to “determine the next steps.”
“The courts have once again taken authority from Montanans — exercised through their elected legislators — over the campuses their tax dollars fund and given more power to unelected campus administrators,” Cantrell wrote. “Decisions like this from state district courts continue to remind Montanans of the fact that most district court judges are little more than Democrat operatives in black robes.”
Amanda Curtis, the President of The Montana Federation of Public Employees, has dubbed the rulung “a win for all Montanans,” adding that the legislative “needs to stay in its lane.”
“MFPE has a long history defending constitutional rights for all Montanans,” Curtis said in a statement. “I’m not surprised the court found that the Legislature cannot infringe on the Board of Regents’ constitutional authority to govern Montana’s campuses.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEW YORK TIMES
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