Transgender State Lawmaker Sues Montana House Leaders over Removal

May 1, 2023

Attorneys for Montana State Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) filed a lawsuit Monday over her being silenced and barred from the state House floor.

The Republican-led state House voted 68-32 against Zephyr on Wednesday, following her protests over legislation against gender-affirming care. The vote meant that Zephyr would be limited to taking part in state business remotely and by voting only for the duration of the two-year legislative term, which ended this past Friday.

During the hearing ahead of the vote, Republican Majority Leader Sue Vinton stated, “Freedom in this body involves obedience to all the rules of this body, including the rules of decorum.” 

Zephyr retorted in her defense that the state House was using “decorum as a tool of oppression.”

The state lawmaker, who is transgender, had rebuked the gender-affirming care ban during a House session on April 18, saying, “I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer you see the blood on your hands.”

Nearly a week later on April 24, Zephyr raised her microphone toward demonstrators who interrupted 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 since making her “blood on your hands” remark.

Monday’s lawsuit was filed in state district court in Helena, asserting that the constituents of Zephyr, who represents a liberal district in the college down of Missoula, were denied their right to adequate representation. Several of Zephyr’s constituents are also named in the lawsuit.  

The lawsuit targets House Speaker Matt Regier (R) and statehouse Sergeant-at-Arms Bradley Murfitt.

Zephyr on Monday said in a statement that she and her constituents were targeted “because I dared to give voice to the values and needs of transgender people like myself.”

Regier, who did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit, said on April 25, “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.”

Murfitt has declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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