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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

New laws over trans athletes, voter registration on campus can't be enforced, judge rules

People walk in front of a grizzly bear statue on the University of Montana Campus, July 7, 2021.
Freddy Monares
People walk in front of a grizzly bear statue on the University of Montana Campus, July 7, 2021.

A Gallatin County District Court Judge last week ruled that the state cannot enforce three laws on college campuses passed during the 2021 legislative session.

The laws ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports; prohibit groups from registering voters in dorms or dining halls; and craft new guidelines for harassment and free speech policies on college campuses.

Judge Rienne McElyea ruled that all three bills infringe upon the Board of Regents’ constitutional authority to govern the state’s university system. The ruling invalidates the voter registration legislation and prevents the other two bills from impacting the university system.

Amanda Curtis is the head of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, which pushed for the laws to be struck down.

"It is just another nail in the coffin of any thought that the Legislature can somehow strip constitutional authority away from the regents."

The Montana University System couldn’t be reached for comment by deadline.

State Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s office in a statement said, “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.” Knudsen’s office said it’s still reviewing the ruling before determining next steps.

Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office says it is reviewing the ruling.

Updated: September 19, 2022 at 4:51 PM MDT
Added info about the Gianforte Administration's statement.
Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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