The Montana House of Representatives voted to ban the state's lone transgender legislator from speaking on the floor of the body for the remainder of the legislative session in a stunning move.
The vote came after more than a week of controversy Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a transgender woman, called out her GOP colleagues during a debate on access to gender-affirming care.
Zephyr had said when they bowed their heads, they would see “blood on their hands,” for supporting a law that stripped young people of health care.
Republicans succeed in passing the ban. Afterward, leadership in the House blocked Zephyr from speaking.
House Speaker Matt Reiger demanded that she apologize for the comment before he would restore her speaking privileges.
Zephyr told The Advocate previously that she refused to apologize because she had no reason to.
Every major medical association agrees that access to gender-affirming care reduces instances of suicide for young, gender-diverse people who have alarmingly high rates of suicidal ideation.
On Monday, Zephyr’s supporters chanted in the gallery to get Republicans to “let her speak.” Zephyr held up her microphone as a way to symbolize that she was amplifying their voices.
Republican majority leader Rep. Sue Vinton introduced the motion, which calls for Zephyr to conduct her work remotely because she violated rules of decorum on Monday by not shutting down her supporters.
“I have fielded calls from families in Montana, including one family whose trans teenager attempted to take her life while watching a hearing on one of the anti-trans bills,” Zephyr said before the vote.
“In that hearing, our caucus pleaded with the Republican chair of the judiciary committee to not allow certain testimony to keep decorum. And we were told a lot of people have a lot of opinions on these things,” she said.
“So when I rose up and said ‘there is blood on your hands,’ I was not being hyperbolic. I was speaking to the real consequences of the votes that we as legislators take in this body.”
Zephyr added, “When the speaker asks me to apologize what he is on behalf of decorum, what he is really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed, he’s asking me to be complicit in this legislature’s eradication of our community and I refuse to do so and I will always refuse to do so.”
As a result of Wednesday’s vote, Zephyr was disciplined with 68 votes in favor and 32 against.
“I would also say that if you use decorum to silence people who hold you accountable, then in the name of all you are doing is using decorum as a tool of oppression,” she noted.
For the remainder of the legislative session, she may not step foot on the House floor.
LGBTQ+ advocacy groups were sharply critical of the Montana GOP move.
“The silencing and censure against Rep. Zephyr for speaking up in support of transgender Montanans is an attack on our nation’s democratic ideals and free speech values,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a press release. “It’s an assault on democracy to suppress the already marginalized and under-represented voices of LGBTQ people and people of color, and the lawmakers who were duly elected to represent them.”
Ellis continued, “The attack against Rep. Zephyr is the latest in a disturbing trend across the country as LGBTQ and ally lawmakers in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and other states have also faced recent threats of censure simply for speaking up for their constituents. Speaking up is literally what they were elected to do. This news is a strong reminder that our voices are our power. When we speak, extremist lawmakers can’t help but hear us.”
68 Republicans voted to kick the state’s lone transgender lawmaker out from the body’s chamber.
A two-thirds vote of the body was required to pass the motion.
This story is developing...