Judge rules state law defining sex as only male or female is unconstitutional

A Montana law defining “sex” as only male or female in state laws was struck down by a judge who saw it as unconstitutional.

The 2023 law was ruled unconstitutional by District Court Judge Shane Vannatta on Tuesday on the grounds that the law’s description did not plainly state its purpose.

A group of transgender, nonbinary, intersex, and other identities sued, arguing that people who identify as gender-nonconforming were not legally recognized and protected by the state’s law. However, the judge in Missoula did not address that particular concern, finding instead that “the bill’s title did not explain whether the word ‘sex’ referred to sexual intercourse or gender and did not indicate that the words ‘female’ and ‘male’ would be defined in the body of the bill,” the Associated Press reported.

(Video Credit: NBC Montana)

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

“Today’s ruling is an important vindication of the safeguards that the Montana Constitution places on legislative enactments,” Alex Rate, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, said praising the judge’s decision.

Montana’s law, S.B. 458, sponsored by Republican Sen. Carl Glimm, defines “male” as “a member of the human species who, under normal development, has XY chromosomes and produces or would produce small, mobile gametes, or sperm, during his life cycle and has a reproductive and endocrine system oriented around the production of those gametes.”

The bill passed in 2023 defines “female” as “a member of the human species who, under normal development, has XX chromosomes and produces or would produce relatively large, relatively immobile gametes, or eggs, during her life cycle and has a reproductive and endocrine system oriented around the production of those gametes.”

(Video Credit: NBC Montana)

Montana Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell said the office would continue to defend a law “that reflects scientific reality.”

A spokesman for Gov. Greg Gianforte said the Republican governor is proud of the law he signed.

“Words matter,” the governor’s spokesman Sean Southard told the Associated Press. “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.”

Frieda Powers

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