Montana House of Representatives votes to bar transgender representative from house floor News
gillfoto, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Montana House of Representatives votes to bar transgender representative from house floor

Montana’s House of Representatives voted Wednesday to strip Representative Zooey Zephyr, who spoke against a bill that would ban the provision of gender-affirming care to minors, of the right to contribute during debates and to be present on the House floor.

Zephyr, who is transgender, posted a letter on Twitter that she received from Montana House Speaker Matt Reiger, House Speaker Pro Tempore Rhonda Knudsen, and House Majority Leader Sue Vinton. The letter informed her of a House motion to determine if Zephyr’s conduct during a debate on the gender-affirming care bill violated “the rules, collective rights, safety, dignity, integrity, or decorum” of the House.

The lawmaker tweetedI’ve also been told I’ll get a chance to speak. I will do as I have always done—rise on behalf of my constituents, in defense of my community, & for democracy itself.”

Zephyr said during the gender-affirming care debate “If you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.” After Zephyr made the comments, the Montana House Freedom Caucus, a hard-right group of Montana representatives, called for Zephyr to be censured, calling Zephyr’s comments “hateful rhetoric” and insinuating that language like it was responsible for events like March’s Covenant School Shooting in Nashville, Tennesee.

While addressing the House amidst the controversy, Zephyr said “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. And when the speaker asks me to apologize 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.” 

The negative response to Zephyr’s comments, and Speaker Reigner’s refusal to recognize her during debate on another bill, led to a protest in the chamber Monday. After the protest, the Montana Freedom Caucus called for Zephyr’s expulsion for allegedly aiding the protest while the House was in session.

Representative David Bedey responded to Zephyr’s actions as the House deliberated disciplining her and stated:

[Zephyr’s conduct] is an assault on our representative democracy, spirited debate, and the free expression of ideas cannot flourish in an atmosphere of turmoil and incivility. What is at stake is the expectation that any member of this body, whoever that might be, has a duty to strive to maintain decorum, so that the people’s work, that work of all Montanans, can be accomplished.

This vote comes twenty days after two Tennesee representatives were expelled from the Tennesee House after they engaged in a protest for gun control on the House floor.