A Montana judge says a ban on trans athletes in collegiate sport cannot continue.
A judge in the US state of Montana has decreed that a series of laws passed by the state’s Republican-led legislature affecting university and collegiate matters are unconstitutional, including one which was designed to prohibit transgender women from competing in female sporting events.
The Montana constitution affords the state board of regents control of public college campuses and gives them higher authority than state lawmakers when it comes to imposing – or removing – rules, something which was recently affirmed by the state’s Supreme Court.
The court’s ruling comes amid intense scrutiny focused on the subject of transgender athletes in sport. One side of the debate insists that athletes shouldn’t be denied their right to compete in athletics due to their gender identity, while the other argues that it affords transgender athletes a distinct competitive advantage over their peers.
It is the second ruling in a matter of days in relation to transgender issues after it was also determined by another judge that a state rule be temporarily lifted, which prohibited transgender people from altering details on their birth certificates.
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Female transgender collegiate and high-school athletes are currently banned from competing against or with women or girls in at least 12 states governed by Republican legislatures.
“The legislature needs to stay in its lane,” Amanda Curtiss, president of the Montana Federation of Public Employees, said of the ruling.
It is also understood that much of the pushback over the ruling against transgender athletes wasn’t necessarily related to the content of the judgement, but rather the legislature’s apparent bid to govern campus policies when that responsibility should instead fall to the board of regents.
However, the ruling has predictably received criticism from Republican lawmakers.
“The courts have once again taken authority from Montanans – exercised through their elected legislators – over the campuses their tax dollars fund and given more power to unelected campus administrators,” said Emilee Cantrell, a spokesperson for the office of Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican who argued in defense of the law pushed by the state legislature.
The issue of transgender athletes in sports has been fiercely divisive, drawing the attention of several notable critics including former British Olympian Sharron Davies and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
Much of the debate has been centered around Lia Thomas, the US collegiate swimmer who has become arguably the most notable example of a formerly male athlete changing their gender and competing against naturally born women.
However, Thomas has argued that she transitioned not to gain any type of competitive advantage but instead to become more content with her own identity.
Thomas has shattered a number of records at the University of Pennsylvania and, in March, she became the first transgender athlete to win a NCAA Division I national title in any category.