Gay Justice

Man convicted under anti-gay sex laws will not register as a sex offender

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Randall Menges, a man convicted of sex crimes in Idaho under anti-gay laws will not have to register as a sex offender in Montana.

Last month we reported on the story of Menges. In 1994, police arrested him for sex crimes after having gay sex with two 16-year-olds. While the age of his partners–who did consent–apparently was not an issue, the fact that they were both males was. A court convicted Menges of Idaho’s Crime Against Nature statute, which banned anal and oral sex between consenting adults. Menges would go on to serve seven years in prison for the offense. The homophobic law also forced him to register as a sex offender.

Menges faced further complications when he tried moving to Montana, which requires sex offenders convicted in other states to register in the Montana state sex offender database. Menges decided to sue over the policy.

Now Montana newspaper The Missoulian reports that Menges has scored a major victory. On May 11, a federal judge ruled that requirements for Menges to register as a sex offender are unconstitutional, as gay sex between consenting adults does not pose a threat to society.

Related: Montana considers removing consensual gay sex conviction from sex offender registry

“Montana has no rational basis for forcing Menges to register as a sexual offender on the basis of a 1994 Idaho conviction for engaging in oral or anal sex with a 16-year old male when he was 18, but not forcing those to register as a sexual offender who were convicted in Idaho in 1994 at the age of 18 for engaging in vaginal sex with a 16-year old female,” District Court Judge Dana Christensen wrote in her ruling.

“I’m grateful to the court for putting an end to my nightmare,” Menges said of his court victory. “It should not have required a lawsuit to enforce the Supreme Court’s command from 18 years ago, but I am happy that it’s over.”

Lawyers for Menges echoed his joy.

“This case involves the lingering effects of centuries of homophobic ‘sodomy’ prohibitions,” Matthew Strugar, Menges attorney, said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that in 2021, Montana would still put people convicted of having gay sex on the sex offender registry,” Strugar said. “This kind of overt, state-sanctioned homophobia would have been surprising 30 years ago. Today it is shocking. And it is unconstitutional.”

Amen to that. Gay sex between consenting adults remained illegal in a number of states until 2003, when the US Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws. Prior to that, a number of states selectively enforced anti-sodomy statutes as a way to oppress and discriminate against queer people.