State Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat banned from the Montana state house last week, sued the state and legislative leaders to regain entry on Monday.
Her lawsuit, filed with the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana and several constituents, also seeks a temporary restraining order barring Republican lawmakers from removing her legislative privileges pending the court’s judgment.
After receiving backlash from Republican legislators over her opposition to a bill restricting transgender minors’ access to gender-affirming medical care, Zephyr was barred from the House floor and gallery last week.
During the debate, she said that anyone voting in favor of the bill would have their hands in blood.
Republicans took exception to the remark and demanded an apology which Zephyr told The Advocate she would refuse to give because none was warranted. The Republican Speaker of the Montana House refused to allow Zephyr to speak on any bill until she apologized. Her supporters entered the chamber gallery last Monday chanting, “Let her speak.” Several were arrested.
On Wednesday, Republicans voted to expel her from the floor and gallery of the body, relegating her to remote work only.
“This effort by House leadership to silence me and my constituents is a disturbing and terrifying affront to democracy itself,” said Zephyr 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 continued, “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.”
The state of Montana, House Speaker Matt Regier, and House Sergeant at Arms Bradley Murfitt are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.
“I feel alienated and disenfranchised to have my representative expelled from debate,” Dean Chou, a district resident named in the lawsuit, said. “Representative Zephyr is my representative on all issues — not just those that directly impact or target transgender Montanans. I believe Representative Zephyr has done an effective job advocating for my interests and my rights on all issues, and I want Representative Zephyr to continue to do so.”
Several bills awaiting votes in the committees Rep. Zephyr sits on have either been transferred to another committee or elevated to the house floor, eliminating all public hearings she was scheduled to attend.
“Representative Zephyr was elected by the people of her district after running on the very principles she is now being punished for defending,” the director of the Montana ACLU, Alex Rate, said. “In his craven pursuit to deny transgender youth and their families the health care they need, Speaker Regier has unfairly, unjustly, and unconstitutionally silenced those voters by silencing their representative. His actions are a direct threat to the bedrock principles that uphold our entire democracy, and we welcome the privilege of defending the people of Montana’s 100th House District from this desperate and autocratic effort to silence them.”
The Advocate contacted Zephyr for comment.