Republicans Just Banned Montana’s First Trans Legislator From the House Floor

Rep. Zooey Zephyr had been banned from speaking for nearly a week, after saying the GOP would have “blood on their hands” for a ban on transition care for minors.
Zooey Zephyr speaks on the House floor on Wednesday, April 26 2023 (Montana Public Affairs Network)

Republicans in Montana’s House of Representatives voted Wednesday to punish the state’s first transgender state representative, Zooey Zephyr, by barring her from speaking on the House floor or voting in person for the rest of the legislative session.

On a party-line vote, Republicans, who hold a supermajority, to ban Zephyr from the House floor, gallery, and anteroom, allowing her only to participate in voting remotely for the rest of the session, of which there are eight days remaining. 


Zephyr said last week that Republicans will have “blood on their hands” for banning gender-affirming medical care for minors. Republicans demanded she apologize, and legislative leaders have since refused to allow her to participate in floor debates until she does.

The attempt by Republican leaders to silence Zephyr, a Missoula Democrat, has sparked protests, including one on Monday which briefly halted floor proceedings; riot cops arrested seven protesters and charged them with criminal trespassing. During the protest, as protesters chanted, “let her speak,” Zephyr held her microphone in the air. 

On Tuesday, Republican leaders including Speaker of the House Matt Regier announced they would bring a motion to the floor to potentially discipline Zephyr, up to and including expulsion from the chamber. 

On Wednesday, as Montanans were banned from watching the proceedings from the House gallery, Republicans accused Zephyr of encouraging the Monday protests and putting the legislators and their staff “in danger.” 

Speaking on the House floor for the first time in nearly a week on Wednesday, Zephyr said she was “not speaking hyperbolically” when she made the comment about blood on Republicans’ hands.

“I rose up in defense of my community that day, speaking to harms that these bills bring and that I have first hand experience knowing about. I have friends that have taken their lives,” Zephyr said. “If you use decorum to silence people who hold you accountable, then… all you are doing is using decorum as a tool of oppression.”


“I’m not sure what comes next here but I will say that I will do what I have always done,” Zephyr said. “I will rise in support of my community. I will take the hard and moral choice.”

Republicans who spoke in support of the motion effectively blamed Zephyr for the protest. Republican Rep. David Bedey said that Zephyr “actively participated in disrupting the lawful activities of this body,” and had “other options” such as leaving or trying to calm the crowd, but “chose neither.” 

“The representative in question did indeed support and arguably incite the disruptive antics of the protesters gathered in the gallery,” Bedey said. Another Republican, Rep. Terry Moore, said that banning a duly elected legislator from the premises was “fair and reasonable, given the circumstances.” 

But Zephyr’s Democratic colleagues decried attempts by Republicans to portray Zephyr’s behvaior as worthy of expulsion, alleging that GOP leaders have ignored far worse. Rep. SJ Howell, a Democrat from Missoula who identifies as nonbinary, spoke in opposition to the motion and said that “there are people in this building who have said things about me in the press and online that I find deeply offensive.” 

“It is deeply unsurprising to me that the community responded on Monday the way that they did. because it's not just that one of our own has been silenced,” Howell said. “It happened after a session of bills that only impacted some of us, and struggling for equal treatment under the law.”


The move to censure Zephyr and bar her from legislative proceedings echoed measures taken by Tennessee Republicans earlier this month to expel two young Black lawmakers, Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, for protesting for gun reform after the Covenant School shooting in Nashville. 

Both Jones and Pearson were quickly re-appointed to the seats by their county legislatures and have said they’ll run in special elections to stay in office. They’ve since become some of the most recognizable state legislators in the entire country, and met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday.

In a statement about the censure of Zephyr, GLAAD chief executive officer and president Sarah Kate Ellis referenced the expulsions in Tennessee, saying that the censure in Montana was part of a “disturbing trend across the country” of threats to silence legislators who stand up for marginalised communities. 

“The silencing and threats of censure and expulsion against Rep. Zephyr for speaking up in support of transgender Montanans is an attack on our nation’s democratic ideals and free speech values,” Ellis said. “It’s an assault on democracy to suppress the already marginalized and under-represented voices of LGBTQ people and people of color, and the lawmakers who were duly elected to represent them.”