Politics /

Montana Legislature Votes to Bar Rep. Zooey Zephyr from Speaking for Remainder of 2023 Session

Zephyr told state lawmakers they would have blood on their hands if they voted to limit medical procedures offered to children expressing gender dysphoria

The transgender lawmaker who told the Montana lawmakers they would have blood on their hands if they voted to restrict the medical procedures offered to minors who identify as transgender will not be permitted to speak for the rest of this year’s session.

Protestors supporting Representative Zooey Zephyr disrupted proceedings earlier this week, chanting from the gallery in opposition to the House’s support of the Speaker’s decision to not permit Zephyr to speak. Members of the Helena Police Department and Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office Civil Disobedience Team were ultimately called in to regain control of the chamber and seven people were arrested.

Zephyr stood up in the middle of the House floor, holding up a microphone. The Missoula representative later released a statement praising the protestors. 

“As an elected representative, I am devoted to supporting those who speak in defense of democracy, as it is my duty to ensure their voices are heard and respected,” said Zephyr, a biological male who identifies as female.

Speaker Matt Regier, Speaker Pro Tem Rhonda Knudsen and Majority Leader Sue Vinton cosigned a letter to Zephyr stating that the representative’s action on April 24 “violated the rules, collective rights, safety, dignity, integrity, or decorum of the House of Representatives.” The leadership team said that as a result Zephyr would face disciplinary action, per The Washington Post

The Montana legislature voted on April 26 to prohibit Zephyr from speaking from the floor for the remainder of the current legislative session. The representative can still vote on bills and participate in committee hearings.  

Zephyr gave a speech ahead of the vote, addressing House Speaker Matt Regier and saying the punishment threatened “democracy itself.”

“If you use decorum to silence people who hold you accountable, then all you’re doing is using decorum as a tool of oppression,” said Zephyr, per KRMG.

A Republican in the chamber argued Zephyr is being held accountable for violating the rules governing acceptable decorum and is not being treated differently due to gender identity. 

“We’re not wanting to ignore what happened nor are we wanting to overreact,” said Representative Terry Moore from the floor.

“It’s my opinion that the discipline proposed is fair and reasonable given the circumstances,” Moore added. 

The Montana Freedom Caucus, which first called on the House leadership to formally censure Zephyr, supported the results of the latest vote. The coalition said Zephyr “helped incite and extend rioting of far-left agitators … by failing to follow the direction to vacate the House floor, showing flagrant disregard for the safety and well-being of staff and fellow Representatives.”

“A small group of people will not be allowed to disrupt the critical business of Montana, and one Representative is not allowed to lead them in their actions,” the MTFC wrote in its April 26 statement. “It’s unfortunate that Rep. Zephyr had neither the maturity nor the humility to take responsibility for his actions and simply apologize, as other members of the legislature routinely do. It is a shame that Rep. Zephyr chose instead to fan the flames of a premeditated riot.”

“This act is nothing more than an ego trip by Rep. Zephyr to gain media attention,” the caucus added. 

The current legislative session is scheduled to end in May. 

This is the second time in the state’s history the legislative body has tried to censure an elected official.

In 1975, Democratic lawmakers sought to reprimand three Republicans who were accused of placing false and misleading election advertisements,” reports AP News. “The censure motion failed after a House committee determined the ads were misleading but not out of line with advertisements placed by other lawmakers.”

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