“Unconstitutional” – Montana Law Defining Sex as Male or Female Has Been Struck Down in Court

A Montana law seeking to define biological sex has been struck down in court as “unconstitutional,” after LGBTQ plaintiffs launched a lawsuit to challenge it.

A Defining Law

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Last year a new bill was introduced in Montana, which sought to legally define a person’s “sex” as only either male or female. It was signed into law by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte and took effect last October. Now, a judge in Missoula has officially struck it down.

Too Vague

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On Tuesday District Court Judge Shane Vannatta ruled that the law, Senate Bill 458, was unconstitutional, on the grounds that its title was too vague due to varying meanings of the word “sex.”

Slammed for Discrimination

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The bill was taken to court by a number of transgender, non-binary, and intersex plaintiffs who slammed the new law for removing legal protections for Montanans who are ‘gender-nonconforming,’ ie do not identify as male or female.

Based on a Technicality

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Vannatta’s ruling did not address the claims of legal discrimination by the plaintiffs, instead basing his judgment on a technicality.

Not Their Place

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He also clarified that it was not his, or the courts’ place to define how a bill’s title could deny the legal rights and identity of transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

Not Inserting Their Opinion

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“The court does not insert its opinion in this order as to what title should have been used or should be used,” Vannatta wrote. 

The Issue at Hand

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Instead, the court maintained that the primary problem with the law was that it did not adequately distinguish whether ‘sex’ referred to gender or sexual intercourse, and that the bill’s title did not indicate that the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ would be defined in the body of the bill.

No Guards Against “Deceptive” Titles

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“The title does not give general notice of the character of the legislation in a way that guards against deceptive or misleading titles,” the judge continued.

The Law’s Purpose

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The purpose of the law was to “provide a common definition for the word sex when referring to a human,” according to the official bill. 

Biological Terms Only

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It defined sex on purely biological terms, describing “male” as a human born with XXY chromosomes and having a reproductive and endocrine system that produces sperm under “normal development.”

Definition of Male and Female

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The definition of “female” was given as a human with XX chromosome, with a reproductive and endocrine system that produces “eggs” during their life cycle. 

Sparking Outrage in Montana

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Senate Bill 458, which caused outrage amongst Montanan’s LGBTQ community and various national advocacy groups, was sponsored by Republican Senator Carl Glimm last year.

A Response to Birth Certificate Changes

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According to Glimm, the proposal was a direct response to the 2022 ruling that allowed transgender people in Montana to change their described gender on their birth certificates.

Two ‘Anti-Trans’ Bills Passed

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The bill was passed by the State House in April last year, during the same legislative session where Montana lawmakers passed a law to restrict gender-affirming care to transgender minors, joining 14 other states to pass such a law. 

Politician Protests

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The bill gained nationwide attention when Democratic Rep Zooey Zephyr, Montana’s first openly transgender politician to be elected to the state legislature, disrupted the House session to stand in protest.

“As Cruel as It is Unconstitutional”

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Over a year before Vannatta’s ruling, Zephyr decried the bills as unconstitutional. “I know that this is an unconstitutional bill. It is as cruel as it is unconstitutional. And it will go down in the courts,” she told the House.

Governor’s Office Responds

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Following Tuesday’s ruling, a spokesperson for Gov. Gianforte, Sean Southard told reporters that the Governor remained proud of the bill he had signed into law.

Words Matter

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“Words matter. And this administration is committed to ensuring words have meaning, unlike this judge, who apparently needs a dictionary to discern the difference between a noun and a verb,” Southard responded.

Praised by Montana Advocacy Groups

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Despite offering no concrete vindications for its LGBTQ plaintiffs, the ruling has been praised by advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana.

“An Important Vindication of Constitutional Safeguards”

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“Today’s ruling is an important vindication of the safeguards that the Montana Constitution places on legislative enactments,” the group’s legal director, Alex Rate, told reporters.

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The post “Unconstitutional” – Montana Law Defining Sex as Male or Female Has Been Struck Down in Court first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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