Montana Democrat Rep. Zooey Zephyr is partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in an attempt to force reentry to the state House floor this week after Republicans punished the freshman lawmaker over his “hate-filled” comments and a disruptive demonstration he inspired.
On Monday, Zephyr, a man who calls himself a woman and the first trans-identifying member of the Montana House of Representatives, announced a lawsuit with the ACLU to reclaim access to the lower chamber after he was temporarily expelled. While barred from the floor, Zephyr still maintains voting privileges.
“I’m suing,” he wrote on Twitter.
Republicans banned Zephyr from the floor for the rest of the session last week after the freshman lawmaker encouraged demonstrations that disrupted several House sessions. Pro-trans demonstrators flooded the public gallery and demanded Zephyr have debate privileges restored after he was stripped of them for violating decorum the week prior. When lawmakers considered a bill to bar transgender interventions for minors with gender dysphoria last month, Zephyr mocked Republican prayers.
“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,” he said.
The Missoula-area representative is demanding the district court circumvent colleagues’ multiple votes to censure him following his comments. First, Republicans barred Zephyr from engaging in floor debate until he issues an apology. He responded by encouraging protests that compelled police in riot gear to clear the lower chamber’s public gallery.
Republican House Speaker Matt Regier canceled the following floor session altogether.
“Currently all Representatives in the Montana House are free to participate in debate while following House rules,” Regier said in a statement. “The choice to not follow House rules is one that Rep. Zephyr has made. The only person silencing Rep. Zephyr is Rep. Zephyr. The Montana House will not be bullied.”
On Wednesday, the Republican majority banned a defiant Zephyr from the floor of the lower chamber while allowing the Missoula representative to vote remotely. Montana Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill banning transgender medical interventions for minors on Friday.
The saga comes after Tennessee Republicans expelled a pair of Democrats who led another “insurrection” by pro-transgender disruptors at the state Capitol in Nashville after a trans-identified teen murdered six Christians at a nearby school. Tennessee Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were temporarily removed from the House for using a bullhorn amid the protests. Each was reinstated by local officials in their home districts.
One month after the shooting, officers have still failed to release the Nashville shooter’s manifesto.
Judge Mike Menahan of Montana’s First Judicial District Court denied Zephyr’s motion for a temporary restraining order to block the legislature’s disciplinary measures Tuesday night, citing the state constitution’s separation of powers.
“The Montana courts have recognized that the Judicial Branch has no power to revise or overrule the power expressly held by the Montana State Legislature to conduct its business,” Speaker Regier said in a statement. “The House is continuing its work for the people of Montana.”