Zooey Zephyr, a state representative from Montana, will continue to participate in votes online for the balance of the legislative session after a judge on May 2nd rejected her request to return to the House floor.
In a five-page order, District Court Judge Mike Menahan stated that the Court lacked the power to overturn the GOP-led House’s last week decision to exclude Zephyr, a biological man who identifies as a bisexual, trans woman, from participating in House proceedings.
Judge Menahan cited the division of powers among the judicial and legislative, legislative, executive, and judicial branches in his decision, stating that the Court found that Plaintiffs are not likely to succeed on the merits based on the relief requested and cannot, therefore, satisfy the first requirement.
To grant the plaintiffs’ requests for relief, the Court would have to go beyond its bounds and meddle with legislative power. The judge noted that the plaintiff’s requests for injunctive relief also exceeded the scope of the relevant facts stated by the Court.
The state constitution explicitly gives each chamber of the Montana legislature the power to expel or punish an employee for good cause by the state constitution.
Zephyr, 34, will no longer be permitted to visit the House floor or gallery for the remainder of the legislative term, which finishes later this week. Zephyr will instead continue to vote on various issues electronically.
Zephyr was prohibited from casting a vote on the House floor by Montana lawmakers on April 26th by a 68-32 vote after the Democrat displayed impolite behavior during a discussion of a bill that would have prohibited transgender medical operations for minors.
During the discussion, Zephyr said that if the House voted in favor of the bill and the amendments made, the next time there was an invocation, she hoped they would ‘see the blood on their hands’ when they lowered their heads in prayer.
Zephyr explained later that the legislator was referring to real consequences that the House votes might have on the LGBT community.
However, the Montana Freedom Caucus, a collection of conservative lawmakers, denounced Zephyr’s comments and demanded an apology, calling them hateful rhetoric.
Zephyr was initially criticized for the remarks but subsequently removed after an uproar erupted in the House gallery among the members’ supporters, a few of whom were reportedly jailed. Zephyr had refused to retract the remarks.
Republican MPs expressed that demonstrations had endangered their safety.
The Republican governor of Montana, Greg Gianforte, finally approved the legislation last Friday, making it illegal for children to have gender-altering surgeries there.
Since the legislators’ censorship, Zephyr has joined forces with the ACLU and launched a lawsuit against the Montana Legislature, claiming that the legislators’ recent actions violate both Zephyr’s rights under the First Amendment and the rights of the 11,000 constituents Zephyr represents.
State attorneys argued that Zephyr’s censoring was for a good cause after a supporters’ demonstration on April 24th and requested the judge bar the lawmaker from entering the statehouse.
Zephyr stated on Twitter shortly after Judge Menahan’s decision that the decision undermines the democratic principles upon which America was built.
According to Alex Rate, a lawyer for Zephyr, an appeal was being thought about.
Austin Knudsen, the attorney general for Montana, declared that the judge’s ruling was a victory.