Throughout a legislative listening to in 2011 that was a prelude to Montana’s debates on abortion, State Consultant Keith Regier displayed a picture of a cow and made the argument that cattle have been extra useful when pregnant.
The comparability drew a immediate rebuke from some ladies within the room, however Mr. Regier, a Republican, declined to apologize. Over time, the previous schoolteacher and sod farmer has seldom demurred from his rising model of combative Christian-oriented politics, through which the Ten Commandments are the muse of fine legislation and a few of the largest battles have been with moderates in his personal social gathering.
Mr. Regier has now emerged because the patriarch of a brand new household political dynasty that has injected contemporary conservative depth into debates over abortion, range coaching and, this spring, transgender rights. Mr. Regier chairs the Senate’s highly effective judiciary committee, whereas his daughter, Amy, leads its counterpart within the Home. Mr. Regier’s son, Matt, has risen to speaker of the Home. The trio of legislators, every wielding an identical model of unflinching conservatism, have been among the many strongest proponents of a set of payments that took explicit intention on the rights of transgender individuals.
It was Matt Regier who led the transfer to bar one of many legislature’s solely transgender representatives, Zooey Zephyr, who had spoken out vociferously on the Home flooring final month in opposition to a measure banning hormone therapies and surgical look after transgender minors. The proposal was certainly one of a number of new legal guidelines that handed not too long ago, together with one prohibiting adult-oriented drag exhibits on public property and one other making a strict definition of an individual’s intercourse.
On the shut of the legislative session on Tuesday night time, fellow lawmakers gave Mr. Regier a standing ovation. “There have been many occasions of daylight, and there have been additionally occasions of shade, however general it’s been an unbelievable journey,” the speaker stated.
The Regier household hails from the Flathead Valley of northwest Montana, an imposing area of glaciers and fir forests round Kalispell that has turn into a vacation spot for conservatives seeking to flee city life and liberal politics in different states. Militia teams and far-right spiritual leaders have additionally discovered a house within the valley, a few of them drawn to the notion of building what is commonly known as a “redoubt” within the American Northwest.
Keith Regier and his spouse settled there in 1975 after he obtained a level in bodily schooling from the College of Nebraska-Lincoln. On the time, Democrats dominated a lot of state politics, partially due to sturdy labor organizing within the state’s expansive mining and timber industries.
Keith Regier taught sixth grade in Kalispell for almost three a long time. Matt was a quarterback for the highschool soccer group, taking it into the state playoffs. Amy earned a level in nursing and started working on the hospital.
Keith Regier stated he had not significantly thought-about working for workplace till he retired from educating, telling The Every day Inter Lake information outlet in 2005 that he deliberate to concentrate on sod farming together with his son and maybe do some writing. However by 2008 he had gained a seat within the State Home, promising to decrease taxes, defend the demise penalty and undermine labor unions by changing Montana right into a “proper to work” state.
In an interview, he stated he assessed all laws by two lenses: whether or not the proposed legal guidelines have been biblical and whether or not they have been good for the typical Montanan.
“This nation was based on Judeo-Christian values,” he stated. “Simply learn the Declaration of Independence. It’s very apparent.”
His unyielding strategy gained traction within the state capital of Helena — together with his beliefs on abortion — and he rose as much as turn into majority chief in 2015.
That was a shock to Bob Brown, a longtime former Republican lawmaker from the Flathead space who as soon as ran for governor. At his dwelling the place he shows paintings that includes former Republican presidents and a plaque thanking him for contributions to the social gathering, Mr. Brown stated he had observed a shift since his days on the State Capitol: Republican lawmakers now not wished leaders who have been searching for compromise, he stated.
“They simply need to implement their very own idea of what’s proper,” he stated. “I believe Keith Regier is a reasonably good instance of that.”
The Regiers’ views appealed to the rising motion of maximum conservatives who have been gaining traction within the area, stated Frank Garner, a former police chief in Kalispell who later represented the realm as a average Republican within the Legislature. That included not solely militia teams but additionally individuals like Chuck Baldwin, a pastor with apocalyptic views and a Structure Celebration candidate within the 2008 presidential election who had moved his household to the state in search of refuge from what he predicted could be escalating battle elsewhere within the nation. Mr. Baldwin used his pulpit to have fun the Regiers’ model of conservatism in Helena.
“They have been philosophically the precise individuals in the precise place on the proper time,” Mr. Garner stated.
In 2016, Matt Regier joined his father in working for workplace, saying he was motivated to take action after the native college board added gender identification to its anti-discrimination coverage. He stated he feared that the rise of transgender advocacy was threatening conventional values.
Amy Regier ran in 2020, sharing her perspective as a nurse in regards to the societal risks of coronavirus pandemic restrictions and vowing to chop taxes. Within the main, she defeated a veteran Republican lawmaker, Bruce Tutvedt, who characterised the brand new Republican stance as “very authoritarian politics, top-down — no tolerance for a Republican like me.”
Whereas the Democrats had held onto the governor’s workplace for 16 years, that resulted in 2021 as Republicans steadily gained floor.
The Regiers turned their consideration not simply to defeating Democrats however to ousting Republicans who didn’t fall into line.
In a single race, the Regiers joined with anti-abortion activists to create a political motion committee known as Medical doctors for a Wholesome Montana. Matt Regier was the treasurer, in accordance with marketing campaign finance data. Keith and Matt Regier accounted for 2 of the group’s 5 donors.
Among the many committee’s targets was Consultant Joel Krautter, a Republican from the japanese Montana group of Sidney who had voted to develop Medicaid. The committee leased a big billboard that confirmed an image of a child with the message: “Joel Krautter voted for taxpayer funded abortions.” Mr. Krautter, who opposes abortion, objected to the characterization.
“I assumed it was bogus, however these individuals don’t care an excessive amount of,” Mr. Krautter stated. He misplaced within the 2020 Republican main to a extra conservative candidate.
Then final fall, in a personal caucus vote, Matt Regier narrowly emerged as Home speaker. It was a end result that shocked some Republican lawmakers. Some have been queasy in regards to the course that the social gathering was set to take.
It didn’t take lengthy: A textual content message went out inviting Republican ladies to a gathering in Mr. Regier’s workplace, in accordance with two individuals who have been in attendance.
Mr. Regier wished to speak about Ms. Zephyr, who had been newly elected from Missoula. He requested the ladies what steps the Home ought to take to handle the chamber’s bogs in Ms. Zephyr’s presence.
Mallerie Stromswold, who was among the many Republicans on the assembly, stated she was stunned that such a difficulty was certainly one of Mr. Regier’s first orders of enterprise. However a few of the ladies within the room expressed issues about sharing non-public quarters with Ms. Zephyr, she stated, and a call was made so as to add locks to the lavatory in order that one particular person might use the entire facility, with a number of stalls, in non-public.
“I used to be the one one who brazenly had an issue with the dialog,” stated Ms. Stromswold, who has since left the Legislature.
As soon as the session started in January, Keith Regier precipitated a nationwide stir when he submitted a draft decision calling for Congress to research alternate options to reservations for Native Individuals; the decision stated the present system had precipitated “confusion, acrimony and animosity.” He later withdrew it.
Republicans additionally started advancing the payments on transgender points, transferring a lot of them by the Regier-led judiciary committees. Because the invoice prohibiting gender-affirming look after minors moved towards passage, Ms. Zephyr warned that the measure could be “tantamount to torture.”
“I hope the subsequent time there’s an invocation, while you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood in your palms,” she stated. Matt Regier responded by refusing to acknowledge her in flooring discussions. Later, a crowd started shouting, “Let her communicate,” and Mr. Regier ordered individuals to clear the chamber. Ms. Zephyr raised her microphone in solidarity with the demonstrators.
Ms. Zephyr was barred from the Home chamber and spent the remainder of the session in a hallway. Matt Regier confronted her there final week and tried to have her moved to an workplace, however she remained exterior close to the snack bar.
Ms. Zephyr stated the hassle to “silence” her was an “affront to democracy” and vowed to battle it.
“The Montana State Home is the individuals’s Home, not Speaker Regier’s, and I’m decided to defend the precise of the individuals to have their voices heard,” she stated in an announcement.
Keith Regier stated he had lengthy been misunderstood for his remarks all these years in the past about pregnant cows, supplied in help of his invoice to make it a murder to hurt a pregnant lady whose fetus then dies.
“If unfinished buildings and unborn calves have a worth in Montana, shouldn’t unborn kids have a worth?” Mr. Regier stated as a part of his cow analogy.
However opponents noticed the 2011 laws as a again door effort to undercut abortion, and it was vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor. His successor, additionally a Democrat, allowed a diluted model of the invoice to turn into legislation two years later.
Republican lawmakers underneath the Regiers’ management have accredited a number of new abortion restrictions, together with a ban on the procedures after 20 weeks. The courts have dominated that the state’s constitutional proper to privateness protects entry to abortion, and new lawsuits are pending.
Keith Regier additionally defended Republican Home members’ vote to bar Ms. Zephyr from the ground, saying her “blood in your palms” comment was inappropriate, and that she had taken it additional by encouraging protests within the chamber.
“We have to be cautious of what we are saying,” he stated. “If we’re offensive, you make an apology.”
Ms. Zephyr by no means apologized, however she did file a lawsuit, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and others, to regain entry to the chamber earlier than it recessed. A decide rejected the hassle.
For this spherical, the Regiers had gained.
Keith Regier stated he and his kids have been doing not more than what they’d been elected to do. “I suppose individuals know our household and determine with our values and need us to return and characterize them.”
Kirsten Noyes contributed analysis.
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