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Judge Won't Let Rep. Zooey Zephyr Return to Montana House

Judge Won't Let Rep. Zooey Zephyr Return to Montana House

Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr

Lawmakers banished their transgender colleague after she spoke out strongly against a ban on gender-affirming care.

A Montana judge has turned down transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr’s effort to return to the state House of Representatives before the legislative session ends.

The Republican-majority House voted last week to bar Zephyr from the House floor and gallery, and from debate, after she criticized legislation to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors in the state. She told lawmakers they would have blood on their hands if they voted for it. They passed it nonetheless, and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed it into law Friday. It is scheduled to take effect October 1.

Zephyr, a Democrat, sued to regain access to the House, joined by several of her constituents. But Montana First Judicial District Court Judge Mike Menahan ruled Tuesday that he did not have the authority to overrule a decision by legislators, the Associated Press reports.

“Plaintiffs’ requested relief would require this Court to interfere with legislative authority in a manner that exceeds this Court’s authority,” Menahan wrote.

Zephyr told the AP that the judge’s decision was “entirely wrong.” She added, “It’s a really sad day for the country when the majority party can silence representation from the minority party whenever they take issue.”

She also released a statement saying there has been “a gross miscarriage of justice” in the state. She vowed to continue fighting, however, saying “I will stand alongside my constituents, my community, and the world as we seek to ensure that our democratic institutions survive these attacks.”

Shortly after Menahan’s ruling came out, the legislature decided to adjourn for the year. Zephyr’s attorney Alex Rate said an appeal is under consideration, but noted that with the adjournment, a ruling on an appeal would have little effect.

Zephyr has been working remotely since her banishment, usually from a statehouse hallway or snack bar, the AP reports. Last year, she and SJ Howell, another Democrat, became the first trans and nonbinary people, respectively, elected to the Montana legislature.

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