Montana State House Leaders to Vote on Punishing Transgender Lawmaker

April 26, 2023

Montana Republican leaders were set to vote Wednesday on censuring or expelling state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), who was silenced on the House floor for protesting a ban on gender-affirming care.

Zephyr, who is transgender, made her comments during a House session Tuesday a week ago, saying lawmakers should be ashamed if they pass the bans.

When the Republican Majority Leader Sue Vinton responded that the body would not be shamed, Zephyr retorted, “Then 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.”

Zephyr this past Monday raised her microphone toward demonstrators who interrupted the proceedings for nearly half an hour in protest of House leaders denying her the chance to speak. At that point, Zephyr had not spoken on the House floor for nearly a week—since retorting Vinton. 

Tweeting about Wednesday’s upcoming vote on Tuesday night, Zephyr said, “I have been informed that during tomorrow’s floor session there will be a motion to either censure or expel me. I’ve also been told I’ll get a chance to speak. I will do as I have always done—rise on behalf of my constituents, in defense of my community, & for democracy itself.”

The move to discipline Zephyr in Montana comes less than three weeks after Republican leaders in Tennessee’s state House voted to expel two of three Democratic lawmakers—the so-called “Tennessee Three”—who were accused of breaking House rules by calling for gun reform. (The two Black men have since been temporarily reinstated by votes in their local jurisdictions.)

Echoing the actions in Tennessee,  Zephyr’s punishment has ignited a debate about governance and who gets to have a voice in democracy.

“Republicans are doubling down on their agenda of running roughshod over Montanans’ rights—to free expression, to peaceful protest, to equal justice under the law,” said House Minority Leader Kim Abbott (D).

But Montana state House Speaker Matt Regier (R) told reporters Tuesday, “The choice to not follow the 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.”

PHOTO: @ZoAndBehold

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