Montana GOP bans the only transgender house member from speaking for the rest of the session

Rep. Zooey Zephyr
Rep. Zooey Zephyr Photo: Provided by the LGBTQ Victory Fund

The speaker of the Montana House, Republican Matt Regier, has banned state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) from speaking on bills on the state House of Representatives floor until she apologizes for saying that her Republican colleagues will have “blood on their hands” for passing a bill to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth.

Calling it a “direct assault on the principles of our democracy,” Zephyr remained resolute.

“I want to be clear: no amount of silencing tactics will deter me from standing up for the rights of the transgender community,” she said in a statement. “This year, I have lost friends to suicide, and I have listened to the heart-wrenching stories of families dealing with suicide attempts, trans youth fleeing the state, and people being attacked on the side of the road – all due to legislation like this.”

“I will not apologize for speaking with clarity and precision about the harm these bills cause. Montana Republicans say they want an apology, but what they really want is silence as they take away the rights of trans and queer Montanans.”

Regier refused to let Zephyr speak yesterday on a bill to define sex as a binary in state law.

“It is up to me to maintain decorum here on the House floor, to protect the dignity and integrity,” he said. “And any representative that I don’t feel can do that will not be recognized.”

He then refused to recognize her when she tried to speak about a non-LGBTQ+ bill about hotels.

Earlier this week, the Montana House of Representatives debated S.B. 99, which would deny gender-affirming healthcare to trans youth and force those undergoing treatment to leave the state or detransition. The bill had already passed both the Montana State Senate and House when Zephyr took to the floor with her impassioned speech, as amendments proposed by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte were being debated.

In a letter accompanying the amendments, Gianforte wrote of trans youth and adults, “I understand their struggles are real, and my heart goes out to them. I firmly believe that, as with all of God’s children, Montanans who struggle with their gender identity deserve love, compassion, and respect.”

The amendments, however, only strengthen the prohibitions denying medically-necessary treatment for trans minors.

Zephyr wasn’t having it, and she referenced the session’s opening prayer.

“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,” she said. “I hope the next time there’s an invocation when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”

The conservative Montana Freedom Caucus demanded that she be censured for “using inappropriate and uncalled-for language during a floor debate,” misgendering her in their statement.

“It is disheartening that the Montana Freedom Caucus would stoop so low as to misgender me in their letter, further demonstrating their disregard for the dignity and humanity of transgender individuals,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Montana American Indian Caucus spoke out in favor of Zephyr as the state House debated the censure measure.

“Rep. Zephyr was speaking up for the Montana trans, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit community,” the Montana American Indian Caucus said in a statement. “This community has been ignored by lawmakers as the Legislature continues to pass laws that spread disinformation and fear, prevent them from receiving life-saving health care, ban their self-expression, and erase them from all public life.”

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