Trans lawmaker Zooey Zephyr sues state of Montana over ‘unconstitutional’ censure

Zooey Zephyr

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana (ACLU) and Zooey Zephyr have filed a lawsuit against the censorship of trans politician.

State officials voted to censure the Missoula lawmaker on Wednesday (26 April) after she spoke out against an anti-trans bill which would see gender-affirming care banned for trans youth.

The lawsuit brought by the ACLU and Zephyr alleges recent actions taken by the House to silence Zephyr violate her First Amendment rights, as well as the rights of her 11,000 constituents to representation in their state government. 

Alex Rate, legal director of the ACLU of Montana, said in a statement that Zephyr is being punished for defending the very principles she ran her election campaign on. 

Rate said: “In his craven pursuit to deny transgender youth and their families the health care they need, Speaker Regier has unfairly, unjustly, and unconstitutionally silenced those voters by silencing their representative. 

“His actions are a direct threat to the bedrock principles that uphold our entire democracy, and we welcome the privilege of defending the people of Montana’s 100th House District from this desperate and autocratic effort to silence them.”

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The silencing of Zephyr began when she accused anti-trans Republican lawmakers as “blood on their hands” for seeking to ban life-saving gender affirming care for trans youth. 

House speaker Matt Regier refused to acknowledge her going forward until she apologised for the remarks, meaning between 20 and 24 she was unable to speak in official proceedings. 

Zephyr described the censorship as a “disturbing and terrifying affront to democracy itself”. 

“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,” she said in a statement issued by the ACLU, “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. 

“The Montana State House is the people’s House, not Speaker Regier’s, and I’m determined to defend the right of the people to have their voices heard.”

An ‘attack’ on democracy

On 24 April, activists protested the censorship in Montana’s House, chanting “let her speak”. 

Five people were arrested by riot police at the protest. 

On 26 April, Zephyr was banned from the floor of Montana’s House of Representatives after House Speaker Regier voted to formally censure the trans lawmaker. 

The move has been condemned by LGBTQ+ and democracy groups, who have blasted the Republican-backed censorship of politician beliefs they do not agree with. 

GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis described the decision as an “attack” on American democracy. 

“It’s an assault on democracy to suppress the already marginalised and under-represented voices of LGBTQ+ people and people of colour,” Ellis said. 

“Speaking up is literally what they were elected to do. 

“This news is a strong reminder that our voices are our power. When we speak, extremist lawmakers can’t help but hear us.”

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