Montana transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr sues Republicans over ‘terrifying’ vote to expel her from statehouse

Lawmaker was removed for sharp criticisms over bill banning gender-affirming medical care for youth

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 02 May 2023 01:04 BST
Montana transgender lawmaker silenced again as backers erupt

Zooey Zephyr, a transgender Montana lawmaker who was barred from the state House of Representatives for criticising a slate of anti-trans bills, has filed a lawsuit against the body’s top Republican officials.

The suit, brought alongside the ACLU of Montana, alleges that the Montana House leadership violated Ms Zephyr’s First Amendment rights.

“This effort by House leadership to silence me and my constituents is a disturbing and terrifying affront to democracy itself,” Rep Zephyr, the first transgender representative elected to the legislature in Montana history, said in a statement.

“House leadership explicitly and directly targeted me and my district because I dared to give voice to the values and needs of transgender people like myself,” she added. “By doing so, they’ve denied me my own rights under the Constitution and, more importantly, the rights of my constituents to just representation in their own government. The Montana State House is the people’s House, not Speaker Regier’s, and I’m determined to defend the right of the people to have their voices heard.”

It also seeks the Missoula Democrat’s reinstatement to the legislature.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted on party lines to bar Rep Zephyr from participating in legislative debate from the statehouse floor for the rest of the session, and leadership subsequently reclassified various study bills the Democrat would’ve voted on in committee, effectively preventing Rep Zephyr from any House business besides voting remotely.

The Montana legislative session, which happens every other year, ends on 6 May.

The Montana House vote was the culmination of a back-and-forth which began earlier this month when Rep Zephyr told colleagues they would have “blood on their hands” if they backed a proposed ban on gender-affirming health care for youth, which later passed.

The lawsuit alleges this description of the bill is truthful.

“Representative Zephyr’s comments represent the factual reality of gender-affirming care,” the legal action reads. “Gender-affirming medical care can be lifesaving treatment for transgender individuals, including minors, experiencing gender dysphoria.”

Advocates have said the ban goes against medical best practices and would harm LGTB+ kids by preventing them from getting what the Human Rights Campaign called “life-saving health care.”

Republicans in the House balked at the criticisms and demanded an apology, while declining to recognise Rep Zephyr when she attempted to speak during legislative debate.

Things escalated further last Monday, when scores of protesters rallied at the state capitol in support of the Democrat, filling the House observation gallery and chanting, “Let her speak!”

Riot police arrested seven people, and Republicans accused Rep Zephyr of fomenting a January 6-like riot, even though the demonstrations were peaceful.

The suit specifically names Montana Speaker of the House Matt Regier and the House’s Sergeant at Arms Bradley Murfitt, whom The Independent has contacted for comment.

It accuses the officials of causing Rep Zephyr “irreperable” harm under the state and US constitutions by freezing her out of the legislative process, leaving “the voices of her 11,000 constituents have been collectively silenced.”

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