The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has gone on the offensive in their quest to keep a convicted sex offender from having to register his status in Montana, filing a brief challenging Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s insistence that he do so.
20 years ago, Randall Menges, while living in Idaho, was convicted as an 18-year-old of having sex with two 16-year old boys under the state’s ‘Crimes Against Nature’ statute (a criminal offense since ruled unconstitutional) and was declared a sex offender. He would serve seven years at the Idaho State Prison after pleading ‘guilty’ in 1994. When he moved to Montana in 2018, he was required to register as a sex offender with the state, according to state laws.
In late 2020 Menges sued the attorney General over this law, not wanting to have to register his status. U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen agreed with Menges claim that he was being punished for engaging in homosexuality with his original conviction, and not because he had consensual oral and anal sex with a minor.
The judge said that Montana’s law requiring individuals registered as sex offenders in other states to also register in Montana is unconstitutional, and ordered that the state must remove Menges from the sex offender, alert all agencies that his status is no longer valid, and expunge all records showing that he was ever on the list.
In response to this declaration, Knudsen appealed, with spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell telling the New York Times:
(the ruling) “weakens our state’s sex-offender registry law, making kids and families less safe….Montana law is clear: If you are required to register as a sex offender in another state, you must also register here”
For this reason, the ACLU, joined by the Center for HIV Law and Policy, filed a brief challenging Knudsen’s appeal, with ACLU of Montana legal director Alex Rate explaining:
“Anti-LGBTQ laws have been deemed unconstitutional both by the Montana Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court…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.”