3 March 2024 11:57 AM
Zooey Zephyr has free-speech lawsuit tossed; case had challenged censure by Montana legislature

news: Zooey Zephyr has free-speech lawsuit tossed; case had challenged censure by Montana legislature

A Montana state judge threw out a complaint filed by a transgender state legislator who was expelled from the House floor, ruling that the legislature has the right to discipline its members as it sees fit.

Montana District Court Judge Mike Menahan granted Tuesday the state’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed May 1 by state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat, and several constituents accusing the House of violating the lawmaker’s constitutional right to free speech.

“Article V, Section 10 of the Montana Constitution provides the Legislature the authority to discipline its members,” said Judge Menahan, a former Democratic member of the state House, in the 10-page order.

The lawmaker was censured April 26 for breach of House rules and decorum after holding up a disconnected microphone on the House floor in support of gallery protesters. At least seven people were arrested at the raucous April 24 demonstration.

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

The demonstrators chanted “let her speak,” a reference to House Speaker Matt Regier’s refusal to recognize the lawmaker for incendiary comments made April 18 about legislation that would prohibit gender-transition drugs and surgeries for minors.

“If you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands,” said the first-term legislator, who reportedly transitioned from male to female in 2018.

The House Speaker “told Zephyr that her comments had broken decorum, and he would no longer recognize her to speak until he believed she could ‘maintain decorum’ in future proceedings,” said the judge’s order.

Emily Flower, spokeswoman for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, praised the judge’s decision.

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

Judge Menahan also said that the lawsuit became moot when the legislature adjourned May 2.

“The Court cannot grant effective relief in this matter because there is no longer a ‘live’ controversy,” the order said. “Because of the fact specific nature of Plaintiffs’ claims, no mootness exception applies. Without a justiciable issue, this Court may not hear Plaintiffs’ case.”

Montana’s first transgender legislator became engaged in May to Erin Reed, a prominent transgender activist, and the two have become “a power couple spreading hope to fellow transgender people,” according to an Associated Press profile.

Source : https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2023/nov/28/zooey-zephyr-has-free-speech-lawsuit-tossed-case-h/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&rand=1247

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