The American Civil Liberties Union of Montanaannounced it has joined in a lawsuit Monday against Montana House Speaker Matt Regier for the censure of Montana State Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a transgender Democrat.
Lawmakers voted last week to ban Zephyr from the House floor and participating in debates after she spoke out against a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors. After last Wednesday's vote, Associated Press video showed she attempted to work from the hallway near chambers, but was told by the speaker she was not allowed to sit in the public hallway leading to the chamber.
Zephyr told supporters of the bill, "I hope the next time there's an invocation when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands."
Republican lawmakers claimed Zephyr violated the chamber’s rule on decorum.
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"This effort by House leadership to silence me and my constituents is a disturbing and terrifying affront to democracy itself," said Zephyr. "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. 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."
GOP lawmakers have defended the censure.
"Currently, all Representatives in the Montana House are free to participate in debate while following House rules. The choice to not follow House rules is one that Rep. Zephyr has made," Regier said. "The only person silencing Rep. Zephyr is Rep. Zephyr. The Montana House will not be bullied. All 100 Representatives will be treated the same."
Zephyr said lawmakers erred in deciding to ban gender-affirming care for minors.
"It is important to understand that the underpinning to all of this is that when trans people are allowed to transition, we truly become ourselves," she told Scripps News. "When it comes to youth, these decisions are being made with parents according to every approved medical guideline."
Although not allowed to enter the House floor, Zephyr maintains voting rights.
The decision to censure Zephyr came weeks after Republican Tennessee lawmakers expelled a pair of Democrats from the House for leading gun control protests. Local officials have since reinstated Justin Jones and Justin Pearson to their seats, but they will be the subjects of special elections due to the legislature’s actions.
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