Censured Montana Dem trans lawmaker’s bid to return shot down by judge

A court ruling on Tuesday officially prohibits transgender Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr from returning to the state House floor after the lawmaker was censured by Republicans following a stunt where the Democrat proclaimed that they had blood on their hands for opposing gender surgery for minors.

(Video Credit: Associated Press)

District Court Judge Mike Menahan made the ruling after attorneys for the state of Montana requested that he reject Zephyr’s request to return to the House floor, according to Fox News. The judge provided himself cover by stating that he didn’t have the authority to overrule the legislature and return Zephyr to the House floor.

He noted in his five-page ruling that to return the Democrat to the floor “would require this court to interfere with legislative authority in a manner that exceeds this court’s authority.”

“It’s a really sad day for the country when the majority party can silence representation from the minority party whenever they take issue,” Zephyr eagerly told the Associated Press, lapping up the press coverage.

“The only thing I will say is, 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,” Zephyr proclaimed when debating SB99 on April 24.

(Video Credit: CBS Mornings)

(Video Credit: TIME)

That declaration was what got the Democrat booted from the floor. The transgender activist posed for cameras, raising a microphone in protest as heavily armed riot police came onto the House floor to arrest protesters and remove Zephyr. It made for a great backdrop for a photo op.

A group of Republican lawmakers known as the Montana Freedom Caucus sought to reprimand Zephyr, accusing the leftist of displaying “hateful rhetoric” and calling for the lawmaker’s censure in a letter.

Republicans refused to apologize to critics who lamented the treatment of the transgender and protesters. A Republican-led vote of 68 to 32 last week in the chamber to remove the Democrat decided Zephyr’s fate. The transgender is not allowed to enter the anteroom or gallery but can vote remotely.

Tuesday’s ruling came after attorneys working on behalf of state Attorney General Austin Knudsen argued that reinstating the transgender would infringe on the “exclusive constitutional authority” of the House of Representatives to enforce discipline among its members.

They asserted that intervening on behalf of Zephyr would violate the separation of powers.

“Today’s decision is a win for the rule of law and the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen stated, according to Fox News.

At the time of Zephyr’s expulsion from the legislative body, Republican Majority Leader Sue Vinton said that Zephyr’s actions put lawmakers and staff “at risk of harm,” according to the BBC.

The Democrat was joined in a lawsuit by the ACLU attempting to strongarm Republicans into backing down.

“This is performance litigation – political activism masquerading as a lawsuit,” Emily Flower, the press secretary for Knudsen contended, according to USA Today. “The ACLU is trying to use the courts to interfere with the legislature as it carries out its constitutional duties on behalf of Montanans. Any relief granted by the court would be a gross violation of the separation of powers.”

According to Zephyr’s attorney, Alex Rate, an appeal is being considered. However, the House of Representatives 2023 legislative session is soon coming to a close, meaning that any appeal would have very little short-term impact. It is not likely to prevail.

This incident follows one in Tennessee where two Democrats were expelled for holding a protest promoting gun control on the House floor. Democrats cheered the “Tennesse Three” and have attempted to parlay that incident into some kind of civil rights calling. The two who were expelled have since been reinstated.



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