- Montana State Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who was suspended by the legislature for transgender advocacy, is suing to return to the House.
- Zephyr was suspended after accusing Republican lawmakers, who passed a bill banning transgender hormonal procedures, that they would have “blood on their hands.”
- Zephyr’s lawsuit is the most recent controversy involving Republicans and Democrats in statehouses.
A transgender Montana state representative, who was suspended by the House of Representatives for criticizing colleagues for passing a transgender youth treatments ban, has sued to be reinstated to the House and partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Democratic state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a biological male who identifies as a woman and represents the 100th District, filed a suit in Montana’s First Judicial District Court seeking an injunction that would have the suspension overturned and force Montana House Speaker Matt Regier to recognize Zephyr on the floor during debates. Zephyr had claimed that following criticism of Republican lawmakers for passing SB 99, the Youth Health Protection Act — which bans all transgender treatments for minors in the state — Zephyr was denied the opportunity to speak on the floor by Regier.
The lawsuit claims that the current Montana Legislature is “blighted with attacks on vulnerable individuals and communities in Montana. Those attacks are perhaps felt most acutely by members of the 2SLGBTQIA+1 community.” It adds that the suspension of Zephyr is “the culmination of those attacks … marginalizing transgender and nonbinary Montanans.”
The recent actions violate my 1st amendment rights, as well as the rights of my 11,000 constituents to representation.
Montana’s 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. pic.twitter.com/eyDjgchWPQ
— Rep. Zooey Zephyr (@ZoAndBehold) May 1, 2023
Zephyr had alleged that the passage of the bill would cause many minors with gender dysphoria to attempt suicide absent hormonal procedures to affect changes in their physique. In the final debate on the bill, Zephyr told the house that “If you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”
On April 24, protesters against the legislation stormed the galleries of the House and shouted at Republican lawmakers on the floor in support of Zephyr, chanting “Let her speak!” Republicans evacuated the chamber, only to return and pass a motion to suspend Zephyr for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session, which ends in May.
Following the suspension, Zephyr’s key card to access the Montana State Capitol was allegedly deactivated, and Zephyr was informed by the sergeant-at-arms that Zephyr could not be physically present in Capitol precincts, according to the lawsuit. Zephyr is only allowed to vote by proxy and cannot participate in any committee hearings.
The lawsuit argues that the suspension violated Zephyr’s First Amendment rights as well as depriving 100th District constituents of representation.
Since Zephyr’s suspension, the Montana State Legislature has considered other bills related to transgender issues. On April 27, the day after Zephyr’s suspension, it passed Senate Bill 458, which would revise the definitions of the words “sex,” “male” and “female” used in every Montana law to refer only to biological sex and biological males and females, respectively.
Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has indicated that he will sign SB 458 into law, having signed SB 99 on Friday, which will come into effect on Oct. 1.
Zephyr’s suspension is the latest controversy involving clashes between Republicans and Democrats in state legislatures. On March 30, the Tennessee House of Representatives suspended three lawmakers who led a protest against gun rights from the floor of the House, who were later championed by national Democrats and hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House.
Zephyr, Regier, Gianforte and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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