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Montana's House Speaker Is Preventing a Trans Legislator From Speaking

Sep 18, 2023Sep 18, 2023

The speaker of Montana's House of Representatives is forbidding state Rep. Zooey Zephyr from publicly speaking on the House floor for the remainder of the session until she apologizes for an impassioned speech she gave on Tuesday.

Days after her initial speech, on Thursday, Zephyr attempted to speak out against Senate Bill 458, which would alter the state's definition of sex.

Her attempt to speak, however, was futile after House Speaker Matt Regier refused to recognize her. When House Minority Leader Kim Abbott inquired to see why Zephyr wasn't recognized, the speaker pointed to the legislative body's rules which he said allowed him to do so.

"It is up to me to maintain decorum here on the House floor to protect the dignity and integrity, and any representative I don't feel can do that will not be recognized," Regier said, according to the Montana Free Press.

Following a contentious impromptu session of the House Rules Committee, the majority GOP committee voted on party lines to back Regier's interpretation of the rules.

The decision to refuse to recognize Zephyr comes just days after she castigated the legislature for attempting to pass a bill restricting children from receiving gender-affirming care.

"If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture. This body should be ashamed," Zephyr said.

Shortly after, Majority Leader Sue Vinton spoke out against Zephyr for shaming the group.

"If you vote yes on this bill, I hope the next time there's an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands," Zephyr responded.

That evening, the Montana Freedom Caucus published a letter to Twitter misgendering Zephyr and calling for the Montana House of Representatives to censure her.

A censure vote has not happened as of yet. In an interview Friday with Insider, Zephyr said she doesn't regret her choice of words from Tuesday.

"When I stood up, I stood up in defense of my community who has been targeted by anti-LGBTQ legislation all session, banning our art forms, banning our stories, banning our healthcare, erasing us from Montana code," Zephyr said. "There's a posted amendment to a bill that may be heard today that would ban "acts of transgenderism" from being distributed online. And so I have no regrets speaking to the real harm that these bills do."

Zephyr said she's heard from many of her constituents in support over the past few days.

"I've seen they've CC'd me on letters that they've sent to Republican leadership telling them that it's not appropriate to silence the voice of their representative."

Moving forward, Zephyr said she'd continue to show up and advocate for her constituents, even without the ability to speak on the House floor.

"I will punch in and we will stand up and I will ask to be recognized as is my right," Zephyr said. "And beyond that, I will continue to have conversations with my caucus on how to talk about these issues."

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