Montana Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr — who is the only transgender lawmaker in the state — and her legal team are weighing appealing to the state Supreme Court after a district court judge ruled denying Zephyr’s request to return to the House floor she was banned from.
“We are considering all options including a potential appeal to the Montana Supreme Court,” Legal Director for ACLU of Montana Alex Rate told TPM.
Zephyr was barred from the state House floor and gallery by her Republican colleagues last week for the remainder of the legislative session for remarks she made on gender-affirming care legislation the House was considering.
Republican House Speaker Matt Regier has refused to let Zephyr speak on the floor without an apology, effectively censoring her and forcing her to vote remotely this week.
In response, Zephyr filed a lawsuit against Regier and Sergeant at Arms Bradley Murfitt, saying their actions violated Zephyr’s First Amendment rights and the rights of her constituents to representation in their state government.
District Court Judge Mike Menahan denied Zephyr’s request on Tuesday writing in his five-page ruling that the court’s power is limited and granting Zephyr’s request “would require this court to interfere with legislative authority in a manner that exceeds this court’s authority.”
“It’s a dark day in Montana, when a conservative supermajority can vote to strip a duly elected representative of her constitutional rights. We do not believe that’s what the law in Montana provides,” Rate told TPM in response to the judge’s decision.
Zephyr’s legal team can appeal Judge Menahan’s decision.
But the House legislative session is scheduled to end on Friday, which means Zephyr’s attorneys will need to act quickly if they decide to appeal the judge’s decision.
“We just got the order yesterday afternoon,” Rate said when asked about the ticking clock on the issue. “So, we’re still processing that so I can’t comment on how expeditiously we’ll proceed or in what manner.”