Zephyr banned from Montana House floor

The discipline came after the Democrat participated in protests at the Capitol on Monday.
Montana Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr hoists a microphone into the air on Monday, April 24, 2023, as her supporters interrupt proceedings in the state House by chanting “Let Her Speak!” in Helena, Mont. Republican leaders in the Legislature didn’t let Zephyr, who is transgender, speak on the floor for the third consecutive day because she refuses to apologize for calling GOP lawmakers out for supporting a ban on gender-affirming care. (AP Photo/Amy Beth Hanson)

Montana House Republicans voted Wednesday to prohibit Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) from being admitted to the House floor, anteroom or gallery for the remaining eight days of the legislative session. Zephyr will be able to vote on bills remotely.

The vote to discipline Zephyr was 68-32, with Republicans voting in favor and Democrats voting against.

Republicans were determined to discipline Zephyr after she participated in protests at the Capitol on Monday. Democrats, including Zephyr, said the protests were peaceful and blasted the vote as an assault on democracy.

Republicans argued that Zephyr put the safety of her colleagues at risk when she ignored orders to clear the floor during Monday’s protests and stood, microphone raised, while her unruly supporters yelled “let her speak!” from the gallery.

“We’re not wanting to ignore what happened, nor are we wanting to overreact,” said Rep. Terry Moore (R) in floor remarks before the vote. “The disciplinary actions that are proposed, from my perspective, are reasonable and prudent, and the measures proposed ensure the safety of the body, and all who participate in the work of the House.”

Speaker Matt Regier (R) has prevented Zephyr from speaking on the floor since last week, after she said that Republicans would have blood on their hands if they banned gender-affirming care for minors. Zephyr, who is transgender, has refused to apologize for those remarks.

“When the speaker asks me to apologize on the behalf of decorum, what he’s really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed,” Zephyr said in floor remarks Wednesday. “He is asking me to be complicit in this legislature’s eradication of our community.”

Zephyr said that the Montana legislature has advanced a slew of anti-LGBTQ legislation this session.

A bill that would prevent doctors from prescribing puberty blockers or performing gender-affirming surgeries on children under age 18 is now on Gov. Greg Gianforte’s (R) desk.

Zephyr said she was grateful for the people who came to the Capitol on Monday to demand that she be allowed to participate in floor debate.

After the vote, Zephyr told local reporters that she does not regret her decision to stand with her supporters then. “I stood up in solidarity with them, and I would do it every day,” Zephyr said.

Although she will continue to be able to vote on bills, Zephyr noted that the House majority’s decision will prevent her 11,000 constituents from having a voice in floor debates.