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Are these women forcing Zooey Zephyr to stand instead of sit while in exile from the house floor?

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

Since being barred from the floor of the Montana House of Representatives last week, state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) has been working remotely from just outside the chamber.

Last Wednesday, the state’s Republican-controlled House voted to ban the state’s first transgender legislator, forbidding her from entering the state house chamber, gallery, or anteroom until the session ends on May 5, in retaliation for a speech she made lambasting her Republican colleagues for their support of a bill that would outlaw gender affirming-care for young people. (Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed the bill into law on Friday.)

Despite several of her committee meetings being canceled and bills being moved to other committees, Zephyr is still allowed to cast votes remotely for the remainder of the session. Last Thursday, she showed up to work from a bench just outside the chamber, which she and supporters have dubbed Seat 31, after her desk number assignment in the state legislature.

On Monday, however, Zephyr was forced to work standing up at the lunch counter outside the House chamber after a group of women showed up early to occupy the bench from which she’d been working last week.

“Some folks showed up early this morning and sat on the public benches near the entrance to the House, so Seat 31 has moved,” she tweeted on Monday. “I’m up and ready to work. Plus, I hear stand desks are all the rage these days.”

Photos show three women sitting on the bench and another standing by. It’s unclear why the four women were there, but many Zephyr supporters have assumed they were deliberately preventing the lawmaker from using the bench to conduct her duties as an elected representative, with some on social media dubbing them “Karens.”

Zephyr was previously cleared to work from the public bench last week. According to the Daily Montanan, after House Speaker Matt Regier (R) initially told her that she would have to move on Thursday, Minority Leader Kim Abbott (D) convinced Regier to allow Zephyr to continue working from the makeshift Seat 31.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana filed a lawsuit against Regier and House leadership on behalf of Zephyr and several of her Missoula constituents. In a tweet announcing the suit, Zephyr said that Montana House Republicans’ 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,” she wrote.

“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,” Zephyr said in a statement. “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.”

Earlier today, Zephyr tweeted an image of her back on the public bench, saying that “some lovely friends” saved her that spot.

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