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Trans-Activist Rep. Zooey Zephyr Sues Montana for House Censure

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  • Source: UncoverDC
  • 09/19/2023

Trans-activist and Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging last week's censure from House leadership violates her First Amendment rights. Zephyr is the first openly transgender individual elected to the Montana state legislature. The newly elected legislator lives in HD100, representing Missoula, one of the bluest districts in the state.

Zephyr is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, and in Monday's press release, she said the district she represents has been "targeted," and their voices have been squelched:

"This effort by House leadership to silence me and my constituents is a disturbing and terrifying affront to democracy itself. 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. 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. The Montana 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."


SB99, Bill Banning Sex-Altering Procedures for Minors Causes Heated Debate

Zephyr made calls from the floor on April 18 to vote against SB99, a gender-affirming care ban for transgender youth, which was ultimately signed into law on April 28. The bill prohibits "certain medical and surgical treatments for minors with gender dysphoria." It also bans the use of "public funds, programs, property, and employees from being used for the treatments." Among the banned treatments and procedures are puberty blockers, supraphysiologic (greater than normally present) doses of male or female hormones, and a variety of specific sex-altering surgeries.

During the debate over the bill, Zephyr made some accusatory remarks, telling colleagues, "If you are denying gender-affirming care and forcing a trans child to go through puberty, that is tantamount to torture, and this body should be ashamed. If you vote yes on this bill, I hope the next time you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands." Zephyr was also joined inside the chamber by disruptive protesters who repeatedly chanted, "Let her speak." 

House Speaker Matt Rieger warned Zephyr would not be "recognized" until Zephyr apologized. Zephyr refused, saying it would silence the trans community and "get us killed."

On April 26, after a week of "being silenced," the Montana House Republican leadership voted 68-32 to censure Zephyr for the duration of the session. Zephyr cannot enter the House floor, anti-room or House gallery but retains the option to participate remotely with "voting only" privileges. Zephyr's response followed:

House Speaker Matt Regier defended his actions, saying Zephyr knowingly broke the rules of decorum. Following the censure vote, Regier told reporters the House is not silencing Zephyr and "will not be bullied...The only person silencing Representative Zephyr is Representative Zephyr" who "made a choice to break the rules."

Several states have already banned or plan to ban access to medical treatments and surgeries for gender-dysphoric minors. However, as seen most recently in Tennessee, the Department of Justice has begun to challenge laws banning sex-altering medical treatments for minors, stating states are "denying medically necessary care."

Trans Youth care/AP/Map

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