Trans lawmaker Zooey Zephyr hugged by colleagues after return to Montana House

Zooey Zephyr

Trans lawmaker Zooey Zephyr was embraced by colleagues as she returned to the Montana House of Representatives, just hours after a judge rejected her bid for immediate reinstatement.

On Tuesday (2 May) the House adjourned Sine Die, whereby the 68th legislative session officially came to an end, meaning Zephyr could renter the chamber and join her colleagues, who were quick to issue hugs.

Footage shows Zooey embracing two colleagues as she makes her return, before being a third joins the group for a discussion inside the house.

On 26 April, state Republicans voted to ban Zephyr from the house floor for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session, after she said those who backed a bill that would prevent trans youth accessing gender-affirming care would have “blood on their hands”. 

Ahead of the end of legislative session, an attempt to have Zephyr reinstated to the House was rejected by a Montana judge.

District court judge, Mike Menahan, ruled on Tuesday (2 May) that it was outside his authority to overrule the legislature and return Zephyr to the house floor.

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Zephyr took to Twitter following the ruling and wrote: “The court’s decision not to reinstate me undermines the democratic principles our country was founded on. I vow to continue standing for my constituents and community to fight for our democratic institutions. 

“If we can’t get justice in the courts, we will get it in the ballot box.” 

In his five-page ruling, Menahan wrote that reinstating Zephyr would “require this court to interfere with legislative authority in a manner that exceeds this court’s authority”, Politico reported.

But Zephyr told the Associated Press (AP) the decision was “entirely wrong”. 

Elected in 2022, the democrat 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.” 

The ruling followed attorneys, working on behalf of state attorney general Austin Knudsen, stating that reinstating Zephyr would be a blatant violation of the separation of powers. 

Knudsen told the AP: “Today’s decision is a win for the rule of law and the separation of powers enshrined in our constitution.”

Zephyr’s attorney, Alex Rate, said an appeal was being considered. However, the current legislature session ends on Friday, meaning an this would have little impact. 

‘Gross miscarriage of justice’

In her published response to the court, Zephyr wrote that “Mountanans, and the world, have witnessed a gross miscarriage of justice here in Montana,” referring to her ban.

She said the ruling “implies that the legislature isn’t beholden to the constitution, that there is no right to free speech in the face of a super-majority”. 

Zephyr added that she will “exhaust every avenue to make sure the people who elected me receive their representation”.

Zooey Zephyr
Trans lawmaker Zooey Zephyr usually works in the hallways of the Montana House of Representatives following her ban from the floor. (Twitter/Zooey Zephyr)

The trans lawmaker’s legal bid stems from an 18 April incident which resulted in Zephyr being silenced after she said that Montana Senate Bill 99, also known as the Provide for a Youth Health Protection Act, would harm young, trans people.

Republicans demanded she be reprimanded for “inappropriate and uncalled-for language”.

House Speaker Matt Regier refused to acknowledge Zephyr or let her speak in the chamber, and on April 26 the house voted to ban her.

Republican governor, Greg Gianforte, signed the highly controversial trans healthcare bill into law on 28 April. It will go into effect on 1 October.

Hundreds of people in Montana have protested against the silencing of Zephyr.

Following being banned from the House floor, Zephyr has faced intimidation at work after four women took her seat and proceeded to stare and laugh at her in the state house.

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