(Daily Montanan) The ALCU of Montana filed an amicus brief Friday asking a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss an appeal from the Montana Attorney General’s Office that, if granted, would require a Butte man who engaged in consensual same-sex activity more than two decades ago to register as a sex offender.
The case revolves around Randall Menges, who was convicted in Idaho of “Crimes Against Nature” — an Idaho law that prohibited oral and anal sex — after having consensual sex with two 16-year-old boys when he was 18 years old. He pleaded guilty in 1994, and after serving a seven-year prison sentence in Idaho, he was placed on the sex-offender registry there. He registered in Montana in 2018 after moving to the Treasure State.
In December 2020, Menges sued Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen over the state’s requirement to register as a sex offender. On May 11, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen ruled in Menges’ favor and ordered Montana to remove him from its sex-offender registry.
“Menges’ underlying criminal conviction is not for having sexual contact with a minor, it is for having sexual contact with another male. And that is why Montana requires him to register,” which Christensen said in his May ruling deprives Menges of his constitutionally protected liberties.
Knudsen appealed the ruling shortly after. In a statement provided to the New York Times after Christensen’s decision, Emilee Cantrell, a spokeswoman for Knudsen, said the ruling “weakens our state’s sex-offender registry law, making kids and families less safe.” In the statement, Cantrell reiterated the state’s argument that Montana law requires individuals registered as sex offenders in other states to also register in Montana, a requirement that Christensen said was unconstitutional in his May ruling.
Knudsen’s office did not respond Monday to a request for comment about the ACLU of Montana’s filing.
Menges is the lone plaintiff, with Knudsen listed as the defendant. The ACLU of Montana was joined by the LAMBDA Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Center for HIV Law and Policy in filing the brief.
“Anti-LGBTQ laws have been deemed unconstitutional both by the Montana Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court,” said Alex Rate, ACLU of Montana legal director, in a news release announcing the filing. “Appealing the District Court’s well-reasoned decision demonstrates the lack of respect that Attorney General Knudsen has for the law and the citizens of this state and country.”
The ACLU of Montana argued in its brief that Montana and Idaho are violating the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down laws criminalizing sexual conduct between same-sex partners.
“Even two decades after the Supreme Court’s decision … both Idaho and Montana still seek to impose ongoing sex offender registration for pre-Lawrence convictions obtained under such laws,” the filing read. It continued, “Ultimately, both states’ continuing intrusions on liberty for sodomy-only convictions are unjustifiable in light of Lawrence.”
The ACLU of Montana also called out Montana and Idaho’s sex-offender registration laws, saying both violate Constitutional Equal Protection laws.
“(The laws) treat individuals who engaged in oral and anal sex more harshly than similarly situated people who engaged in vaginal sex under otherwise identical circumstances. The former are required to register as sex offenders, but the latter are not. That disparate treatment is unsupportable under even rational basis review,” the filing read.