BOZEMAN — A judge in Gallatin County put a permanent block Friday on three laws passed by the 2021 Legislature, which including a law to prevent transgender women from participating in school athletics.
The three bills, House Bill 112, House Bill 349 and Senate Bill 319, concerned school policies, including programs at the Montana University System.
The bills respectively; banned transgender women from participating in school athletics, limited discipline for speech and dictated whether student groups received university recognition, and would have affected funding for MontPirg, which is a student-directed non-partisan public advocacy group operated out of the University of Montana for more than 40 years.
The Montana State Constitution gives full power to the Board of Regents to govern the university system, and Gallatin County District Court Judge Rienne H. McElyea wrote in a summary judgement that the laws amounted “to an impermissible attempt ‘to exercise control of the MUS by legislative enactment.’”
On the issue of transgender athletes, McElyea said the Montana University System opposed the bill during the session because MUS must comply with the NCAA and the law could affect the school's standing with the national organization and limit eligibility for MUS to participate in interstate competition and host post-season events. The law was an overstep of the Legislature, McElyea said, because the Board of Regents are the ones with the authority to ensure "the eligibility of Montana athletes and to protect MUS's substantial financial investment in its athletics program."