A Montana judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday by Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who is transgender, against the state’s House of Representatives after Zephyr was censured in April, according to court documents.

Zephyr was disciplined by House officials on April 26 for breaking legislative protocol after Zephyr held up a microphone to support protesters, several of whom were arrested at the demonstration several days prior. Zephyr filed a lawsuit against Republican state House Speaker Matt Regier and the House’s Sergeant of Arms Bradley Murfitt for allegedly violating Zephyr’s right to freedom of speech, but District Judge Mike Menahan argued that the legislature does have the right to discipline members who violate the rules, according to court documents.

“Article V, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution provides the Legislature the authority to discipline its members,” Menahan wrote. “Unlike in Ramon where the court found an answer would ‘benefit Montana law enforcement officers by providing authoritative guidance on an unsettled issue regarding their authority,’ the Legislature’s disciplinary authority is not an unsettled issue.”

The protests were regarding a bill that would ban doctors from prescribing cross-sex hormone treatments for minors, and Zephyr claimed during a debate on the state House’s floor that anyone who voted yes on the proposed law would have “blood on [their] hands.” Zephyr’s 28-page lawsuit argued that the decision to censure “unlawfully silenced [Zephyr]” by refusing to allow debate.

Menahan, however, said that Zephyr’s lawsuit was “moot” since the censure period was over and that even Zephyr had admitted that the censure was highly unusual and therefore unlikely to happen again, according to the ruling. He also dismissed the idea that Zephyr’s censure would influence how members perform their duties since the legislature is within its ability to discipline elected officials.

Emily Flower, spokeswoman for the Montana Attorney General’s Office, which was representing the defendants, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the judge’s decision had upheld the “rule of law.”

“The plaintiffs failed in their attempt to inject the court into legislative affairs and thwart the democratic process,” Flower said. “The decisions in this case rightly upheld the Montana Constitution’s separation of powers and the rule of law.”

Zephyr did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

Kate Anderson on November 29, 2023

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