Montana Republicans banned Democrat Rep. Zooey Zephyr from the House floor on Wednesday for the remainder of the legislative session.
Zephyr, the first trans-identified lawmaker in the state’s lower chamber, has been barred from speaking since last week after GOP colleagues censured the Missoula-area representative for “hate-filled” comments. During floor debate on a bill to restrict trans medical interventions for minors with gender dysphoria, the first-term Democrat mocked Republican prayers.
“The only thing I will say is if you vote yes on this bill, and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands,” Zephyr said.
The legislation ultimately passed in addition to a proposal from the Montana House Freedom Caucus to censure Zephyr. The Democrat was unable to speak until issuing an apology.
The Republican majority’s action Wednesday to temporarily expel Zephyr from the floor of the legislature follows days of disruptions wherein Zephyr encouraged demonstrators who stormed the Capitol. House business came to a halt Monday when protesters filled the public gallery and demanded Zephyr be reinstated privileges of debate, shouting “let her speak.” Police in riot gear were forced to clear the balcony to allow lawmakers to resume proceedings.
House Speaker Speaker Matt Regier canceled the chamber’s Tuesday session altogether.
“Currently all Representatives in the Montana House are free to participate in debate while following House rules,” said Regier. “The choice to not follow House rules is one that Rep. Zephyr has made. The only person silencing Rep. Zephyr is Rep. Zephyr. The Montana House will not be bullied.”
The formal measure passed Wednesday comes short of a full expulsion. Zephyr will still be allowed to vote on legislation, but not from the House floor.
In March, House lawmakers in Tennessee outright expelled two Democrats who led another transgender insurrection at the state Capitol after a trans-identified teen killed six Christians at a nearby school. Tennessee Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were temporarily removed from the House for using a bullhorn during demonstrations. Both were reinstated by local officials in their home districts.