(The Daily Signal) – A Montana judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat who identifies as transgender, brought against the Montana House of Representatives after Zephyr’s censure in April, according to court documents.
Zephyr was disciplined by Montana House officials April 26 for breaking legislative protocol after holding up a microphone to support protesters, several of whom were arrested during a demonstration several days prior.
Zephyr filed a lawsuit against state House Speaker Matt Regier, a Republican, and Sergeant of Arms Bradley Murfitt, accusing them of violating Zephyr’s right to freedom of speech. Montana District Judge Mike Menahan ruled that the Legislature has 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 in his decision. “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. Zephyr claimed during a debate on the House floor that anyone who voted yes on the proposed law would have “blood on [their] hands.”
The 28-page lawsuit argued that the decision to censure Zephyr “unlawfully silenced” Zephyr by refusing to allow debate.
Menahan, however, ruled that Zephyr’s lawsuit was “moot” since the censure period was over and even Zephyr had admitted that the censure was highly unusual and therefore unlikely to happen again. He also dismissed the idea that Zephyr’s censure would influence how House 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 represented the defendants, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the judge’s decision 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 a request for comment.