District Court Judge Mike Menahan ruled on Tuesday that the “remedy sought would require this Court to meddle with legislative power in a manner beyond the jurisdiction of this Court.” According to the Montana Free Press, the plaintiffs also want an injunction that “far exceeds the facts at issue here.”
Even if the court decides that the defendants “acted unlawfully on the facts of this case,” the judge continued, “it lacks the power to issue a broad, permanent injunction to effectively remove all legislative authority under Article V, Section 10. [of the Montana Constitution] compared to a single member.”
Zephyr, who filed a lawsuit with residents of Missoula County, said in a tweet that the court’s decision “undermines the democratic principles on which our country was founded” and pledged to “continue to defend my constituents and my community to fight for our democratic institutions”.
The Montana state legislature holds a 90-day legislative session every two years, and the current one ends this week, despite the fact that an appeal is still possible.
Zephyr hinted at his re-election bid, saying, “If we can’t get justice in the courts, we’ll get it in the voting booth.”
The GOP-run Montana House voted last week to bar Zephyr, a biological male who identifies as female, from attending or speaking at floor sessions after lawmakers raised a microphone as supporters disrupted the proceedings in the bedroom at Montana House chanting: ‘Let her talk!’ The lawsuit was filed Monday in response. Several people were taken into custody following the unrest.
After Zephyr attacked other lawmakers who support legislation that would tighten restrictions on transgender surgeries for minors, Republican leaders refused to allow him to speak, citing decorum violations.
The measure was signed into law Friday by Republican Governor Greg Gianforte.
Zephyr was penalized for the remainder of the current parliamentary session by censorship, although he was still able to vote remotely. When the Montana House was about to consider “critical legislation” on the state budget, the complaint claimed that Zephyr was being silenced.
In the complaint, it was argued that the “unconstitutional” censorship should be quickly and eventually reversed. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have named the State of Montana, Montana House Speaker Matt Regier, and Montana House Sergeant-at-Arms Bradley Murfitt as defendants.
According to The Associated Press, state prosecutors objected to the need for an emergency move, saying the reprimand was given for a “good cause.” They said, “A legislator cannot be authorized to prevent the other 99 from debating matters affecting Montana in a civil and orderly manner.”
Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen said the judge’s decision on Tuesday “is a victory for the rule of law and the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution,” according to the Wall Street Journal. According to Scripps, Regier said that “the courts of Montana have recognized that the judiciary has no power to revise or set aside the power expressly held by the Montana State Legislature to conduct its business.”
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