Judge rejects Montana lawmaker Zooey Zephyr’s bid to overturn removal from House floor
Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), who was censured and barred from the House floor by state Republicans, cannot yet return to the chamber, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The judge rejected a motion from Zephyr, one of the state’s first openly transgender lawmakers, and her lawyers to allow her to return to the House floor and participate in debate, according to the Associated Press.
Zephyr was censured and barred from the House in April for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session for criticizing Republican colleagues who voted for a bill in the state that would ban gender-affirming care for minors. She told the lawmakers they would have “blood on your hands.”
But lawyers for the state lobbied the court to not grant Zephyr’s emergency motion to allow her back in the statehouse, arguing it would be a violation of the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches. They also argued Zephyr was expelled from the chamber for “good cause.”
“One legislator cannot be allowed to halt the ability of the other 99 to engage in civil, orderly, debate concerning issues affecting Montana,” the state’s lawyers wrote to the court.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen celebrated the decision on Tuesday.
“This lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt by outside groups to interfere with Montana’s lawmaking process,” Knudsen said in a statement. “Today’s decision is a win for the rule of law and the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.”
Zephyr and Democratic allies have slammed the decision by state Republicans to banish her from the legislature, framing it as an assault on free speech and an attempt to silence her voice and support for transgender issues.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed the bill that banned gender-affirming care for minors in the state last Friday, making the state one of a slew of Republican-led states that have enacted bans and restrictions on the care.
The silencing of Zephyr has put her into national headlines, following the recent move in the Republican-led Tennessee House to banish two Black state lawmakers for their protests over gun violence. The lawmakers were reinstated in April.
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