Montana Judge Rejects Transgender Lawmaker’s Suit Over House Censure

In a recent development, a Montana judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Democratic state Representative Zooey Zephyr against the state’s House of Representatives. 

Lawsuit Was Due to Violation During a Protest

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The lawsuit stemmed from Zephyr’s censure in April, following the representative’s alleged violation of legislative protocol during a protest. 

Judge Disciplined Members Who Breached Rules

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According to court documents, the judge’s decision was grounded in the legislature’s authority to discipline members who breach established rules.

Incident Occurred Back in April

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The incident leading to Zephyr’s censure occurred on April 26, when the representative faced disciplinary action for purportedly violating legislative protocol. 

Zephyr Reportedly Encouraged Protesters

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Zephyr had reportedly used a microphone to express support for protesters, some of whom had been arrested during a demonstration a few days earlier.

Zephyr’s Global Recognition

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In 2022, she gained global recognition by making history as the first openly transgender woman elected to the Montana legislature. Her journey to prominence was fueled by a grassroots campaign, a response to the increasing assault on trans rights and the independent judiciary system by the Republican majority.

A Series of Legislative LGBTQ+ Initiatives 

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As the 2023 legislature commenced in January, it brought forth a series of legislative initiatives that eroded essential rights, particularly in the realm of medical care, for transgender individuals.

Zephyr Took Swift Legal Action

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In response to the censure, Zephyr initiated legal action against Republican State House Speaker Matt Regier and the House’s Sergeant of Arms Bradley Murfitt. The lawsuit claimed that the censure violated Zephyr’s freedom of speech rights. 

Judge Says They Have Authority to Discipline Members

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Menahan’s ruling mentioned the constitutional provision, stating, “Article V, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution provides the Legislature the authority to discipline its members.” He said that the issue of legislative disciplinary authority was not unsettled, and distinguished it from a precedent case.

Comments Were Because of Hormone Treatment 

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The opposition that led to the censure was linked to a bill seeking to prohibit doctors from prescribing cross-sex hormone treatments for minors. 

‘Blood on Your Hands’

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During a debate on the state House floor, Zephyr asserted that anyone voting in favor of the proposed law would have “blood on your hands.” 

Lawsuit Argued it Was Unlawful

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The subsequent 28-page lawsuit argued that the censure unlawfully silenced the representative by restricting debate.

Zephyr Says Recurrence Was Unlikely

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Judge Menahan deemed Zephyr’s lawsuit “moot” since the censure period had concluded. Zephyr acknowledged the unusual nature of the censure and indicated that its recurrence was unlikely. 

‘Limited Voting Remotely on Pending Legislation’

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Menahan’s ruling said, “The censure limited Zephyr to voting remotely on pending legislation for the remainder of the legislative session.”

Dismissed Concerns Over Censure

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The judge dismissed concerns that the censure might impact how members fulfill their duties, emphasizing that the legislature has the prerogative to discipline elected officials.

Upheld ‘Rule of Law’

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Emily Flower, spokeswoman for the Montana Attorney General’s Office, which represented Regier and Murfitt, welcomed the judge’s decision, asserting that it upheld the “rule of law.” 

The ‘Decision Was Rightly Upheld’

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

The post Montana Judge Rejects Transgender Lawmaker’s Suit Over House Censure first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Gorodenkoff. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.

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