Anna Conley, deputy county attorney, spoke at length about state law during Tuesday’s board meeting. According to the Montana Human Rights Act, there has to be a very clear exception in order for discrimination to be legal.
“The best example would be having vision requirements for people getting a driver’s license,” Conley told the board. “It is disability discrimination, but there are reasonable grounds to require the drivers have vision requirements.”
HB 702 is different than other provisions under the Montana Human Rights Act because it does not have reasonable ground statements, Conley said.
“That leaves you a little bit of ambiguity on whether this very traditional, commonly used, ubiquitous reasonable grounds justification for differential treatment applies in the HB 702 context,” Conley said.
Additionally, Conley said that as health officer, Barnett “has a number of duties under state law with regard to isolation and quarantine.” He also is required to maintain quarantine measures as directed by the Board of Health.
Board chairman Ross Miller asked Conley if HB 702 prevents Montana from following CDC guidelines in regard to quarantine.
“It depends on if you can assume that there is a balancing test and a reasonable justification for differential treatment, despite the absence of that language in the statute,” Conley said. “If you can assume that then, following CDC guidance would be legitimate reason to differentiate, but it’s true that HB 702 just doesn’t have that same reasonable grounds language you see in other discrimination statutes.”