ACLU Denounces Censure of Transgender Montana State Rep. Zooey Zephyr 

Transgender Pride Flag
PC: sarahmirk
Via Wikimedia Commons

By Sunny Zhou

HELENA, MT – This past week, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Montana reprimanded the Montana House of Representatives for voting to prolong the censure of Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr (HD-100), denying her constituents representation in state government.

According to the New York Times, House Republicans have threatened to discipline Rep. Zephyr since an April 18 session in which Zephyr told GOP lawmakers they would have “blood on your hands” for passing bills in the House to restrict the rights of transgender youth and their families, including banning gender-affirming care for minors.

Conservative lawmakers accused her of “attempting to shame the Montana legislative body” by using “hateful rhetoric,” the NYT reported. In the days following that incident, House Speaker Matt Reiger repeatedly refused to recognize Rep. Zephyr’s request to speak on any bill being considered before the House, even if it did not concern transgender issues.

This past Wednesday, Rep. Zephyr was censured by the House (68-32) for amplifying the voices of protesters chanting “Let her speak!” in reference to the House speaker blocking Zephyr from speaking on the floor, reported CNN. The censure allows Rep. Zephyr to retain her seat and ability to cast votes, though she is prohibited from participating in floor debate.

“[W]hen 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,” Rep. Zephyr said in the minutes before her censure vote, adding, “He’s asking me to be complicit in this legislature’s eradication of our community, and I refuse to do so and I will always refuse to do so.”

Other anti-transgender legislation considered before the House included a “bill to ban drag performances in public spaces [and] a bill defining sex in Montana law that would cut transgender and nonbinary people out of legal code,” reports the Daily Montanan.

The ACLU has promised it would, alongside the ACLU of Montana and Lambda Legal, challenge such bans in court should they become law.

“This is an anti-democratic effort by House leadership to censor one of their own colleagues for using her voice and platform to represent her constituents,” said Keegan Medrano, Policy Director of the ACLU of Montana, adding, “In voting to take away her microphone, the House is attempting to silence Montanans and trans people from speaking to the harm of all these bills.”

Thursday, the Daily Montanan reported that after she was censured and removed from the floor, “Republican leadership announced that the committees on which Zephyr serves will no longer be meeting for the remainder of the legislative session.” Bills in the House Judiciary committee on which Rep. Zephyr serves were “blasted” to the floor or referred to other still-active committees.

The Business and Labor committee heard an abortion pill study bill, “despite it being more suited for Judiciary or Health and Human Services committees,” Rep. Kelly Kortum (HD-65) tweeted. “Disrupting the process for petty revenge?”

“There is a name for when elected officials attack and silence other elected officials they don’t agree with to prevent them from fulfilling their duties – it’s called authoritarianism,” said ACLU National Political Director Deirdre Schifeling. “Freedom of speech is essential to our democracy. Trans people are an essential part of our democracy…and must be defended.”

About The Author

Sunny is a third year Political Science student at UC Davis. She is passionate about the intersection between law, justice, and creative media. In her spare time, she enjoys watching films, playing TTRPGs, and creating animated shorts.

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1 Comment

  1. Walter Shwe

    This is just another disgraceful stunt designed by Republicans to silence their critics. This is now a clear pattern. Tennessee front and center.

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