The state representative who was censured for comparing the restriction of medical interventions offered to minors who identify as transgender to torture has sued the state of Montana.
Missoula Representative Zooey Zephyr, who identifies as a transgender woman, was ultimately censured for accusing lawmakers in favor of the proposed legislation of having “blood on [their] hands” after the Montana Freedom Caucus denounced Zephyr’s conduct.
Zephyr has been barred from speaking on the floor for the remainder of the legislative session, which culminates in May. Zephyr is permitted to participate remotely and to vote on bills.
With assistance from the American Civil Liberties Union, Zephyr filed an emergency lawsuit in state court arguing the censure is a violation of the First Amendment.
“By depriving Representative Zephyr of her right to freely engage with the legislative process, Defendants have also deprived her 11,000 constituents of the right to full representation in their government,” states the lawsuit. “Defendants’ lawless silencing and Censure of Representative Zooey Zephyr extinguishes a vital part of the job her constituents elected her to do.”
Zephyr has argued the lawsuit is necessary to combat gender-identity bias present within the legislature.
“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,” said Zephyr in a press release. “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.”
Zephyr has been criticized for having a photographer take photos while the representative worked outside the House chamber.
BREAKING: Source in Montana Capitol sent me these pictures of transgender Democrat Rep. Zooey Zephyr, censured for breaking House rules on decorum, having a personal photographer follow him around to take pictures for social media.
Definitely no theater going on here! pic.twitter.com/4qesqXMNrt
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) April 28, 2023
The ACLU of Montana’s Policy Director, Keegan Medrano, called the Censure “an anti-democratic effort by House leadership” to censor Zephyr and to “silence Montanans and trans people from speaking to the harm of all these bills.”
“This is another shameful day in our state’s history and we’re determined to protect every transgender Montanans from these vile, bigoted attacks on their dignity and equality,” said Medrano in a statement published on April 26.
U.S. Senator Jon Tester, who is currently seeking reelection in Montana, denounced Zephyr’s censure as “an extreme, undemocratic step.”
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen’s spokeswoman Emily Flower called Zephyr’s legal effort “performance litigation” and “political activism masquerading as a lawsuit” in a statement to Fox News Digital.
“The ACLU is trying to use the courts to interfere with the legislature as it carries out its constitutional duties on behalf of Montanans,” said Flowers. “Any relief granted by the court would be a gross violation of the separation of powers.”
Montana Governor Greg Gianforte ultimately signed Senate Bill 99 – the bill that prompted Zephyr’s comments – into law on April 28.