A Montana judge has denied a request for the court to intervene and restore state Rep. Zooey Zephyr’s access to the House floor.
The Democrat, who is the first openly transgender woman elected to Montana’s legislature, was banned last week by state House Republicans from the chamber for the rest of this year’s legislative session.
The decision to remove Zephyr from the floor was in response to her comments regarding a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors in Montana. The House speaker ruled that her remarks violated House rules and refused to allow her to speak on the floor.
“I’m exploring every avenue available to make sure my constituents, the people who sent me here, have the representation that they have a right to,” Zephyr said Tuesday on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Zephyr, who is able to retain her seat and cast votes remotely, is not able to participate in debates for the remainder of the legislative session, which is slated to end this week. She has been working from the hallway near the House chambers where she said she is able to catch colleagues and ask them to help represent sentiments on the floor that she hears from her constituents.
The Republican-dominated state legislature has faced criticism for removing Zephyr from the floor and restricting who can be heard and what can be said about policy debates that minority Democrats in the state view as matters of life and death.
Montana District Court Judge Mike Menahan rejected Zephyr’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction Tuesday, citing the separation of powers between the judicial and the legislative branches.
“The Montana Constitution explicitly grants each house of the Montana legislature the authority to ‘expel or punish a member for good cause,’” Menahan said in the order. “Because the constitution explicitly reserves this power for the Legislature, the Court’s powers are conversely limited.”
Zephyr has vowed to continue the fight, saying that the speaker and the Republican supermajority “took away my ability to represent my constituents and, in doing so, took away their right to representation.”
Democrats in the state have called on the House Republicans to reverse Zephyr’s ban, claiming that it is an attack on democracy and freedom of speech. It remains to be seen if Zephyr will be able to regain access to the House floor before the legislative session ends.