Turns Out Gay Sex Can Still Keep You on the Sex Offender Registry

Randall Menges had to register as a sex offender in Montana after having consensual sex when he was 18 years old.
May 13, 2021, 3:35pm
Randall Menges, front, along with his attorneys Matthew Strugar and Elizabeth Ehret, pause outside the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse in March, 2021, in Missoula, Mont. (Tom Bauer/The Missoulian via AP)
Randall Menges, front, along with his attorneys Matthew Strugar and Elizabeth Ehret, pause outside the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse in March, 2021, in Missoula, Mont. (Tom Bauer/The Missoulian via AP)

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In 1993, on a ranch in Idaho, an 18-year-old Randall Menges had sex with two 16-year-olds. The sex was consensual—but it was illegal, at the time, only because everybody involved was male.

Convicted for a “Crime Against Nature,” Menges ended up serving seven years in prison. And, thanks to a constellation of state laws, he’s been required to register as a sex offender ever since, even though the Supreme Court overturned all state laws against homosexual sodomy in 2003. 

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That is, until this week, when a federal judge ruled that Montana, where Menges is now listed as a sex offender, has no real reason to require Menges to register.

“Having consensual intimate sexual contact with a person of the same-sex does not render someone a public safety threat to the community,” U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote in a decision Tuesday. “It does not increase the risk that our state’s children or other vulnerable groups will be victimized, and law enforcement has no valid interest in keeping track of such persons’ whereabouts.”

Christensen ordered the state of Montana to remove Menges from its sex offender registry by May 21, as well as erase any records that show Menges ever had to register. 

But Austin Knudsen, Montana’s attorney general, is already pushing back: On Wednesday, Knudsen filed a notice that he intends to appeal Christensen’s ruling. In an earlier filing, Knudsen’s office argued that Menges was trying to make Montana rule on the constitutionality of his Idaho conviction, which the state doesn’t have the ability to do.

Menges sued over the registration requirement in December 2020, after he was kicked out a Montana homeless shelter because he had been marked noncompliant with the state’s sex offender registry laws, according to his lawsuit. The night he was kicked out, the lawsuit notes, it was 28 degrees out.

Menges’ lawsuit alleges that that Montana’s registry requirement was “a significant barrier” to his ability to find work, housing, and maintain relationships. It notes that Menges had also been rejected from working for Postmates because of his inclusion on the sex offender registry.

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Under both Idaho and Montana law, what Menges did would not qualify as statutory rape for multiple reasons, including the fact that 16 is the age of consent in Montana, both in 1993 and now, Menges’ lawsuit alleges. “This case involves the lingering effects of centuries of homophobic ‘sodomy’ prohibitions.”

Menges’ attorney, Matt Strugar, told told NBC News last month that Idaho, Mississippi, and South Carolina all still mandate that people convicted of consensual sodomy before 2003—that is, before the Supreme Court abolished anti-sodomy laws—must still register as sex offenders.

While he no longer lives in Montana, Menges wants to return and work on a ranch or do rodeo work, according to his lawsuit. Menges told NBC News that he’d loved horses since he was 6 years old.

“I’d like to get my equine veterinary nursing degree and take care of them, maybe for a rodeo or for private individuals,” he said. “I just want to go where I want and make the choices I want without this hanging over me.”