Zooey Zephyr: Hundreds rally in Montana for banned trans lawmaker

Zooey Zephyr

Hundreds of people protested the silencing of trans lawmaker Zooey Zephyr in Montana.

Zephyr was banned from the Montana House of Representatives on 26 April after she told lawmakers they would have “blood on their hands” if they voted to restrict medical care for transgender youth.

As a result, she is unable to enter the chamber or speak on house business for the rest of the legislative session, a move that’s been denounced as anti-democratic.

On Friday (28 April), hundreds of people flooded the streets of Missoula, Montana for a rally in support of Zephyr.

The lawmaker addressed supporters directly and said: “I feel like this week the headline has been looking at all of the cruelty that the legislature did. But, I left that building with my head held high.”

One of the organisers of the event, Halle Smith, told KPAX News the demonstration was a reminder to the state “that the power is in our hands.”.

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Smith stressed that even though the Montana House of Representatives “silenced Zooey’s microphone and the voices of her constituents, they really can’t silence us”.

“This legislative session has been really, really hateful to queer and trans people. It’s not really what’s happening to Zooey that sparked this movement,” they added.

“I mean it’s been building, and I think what’s happened to her is…like the catalyst maybe. But this has been building for a long time.”

Following the march, Zephyr tweeted: “We’re changing the world and that change is taking root in Missoula, Montana.”

Why was Zooey Zephyr banned from the Montana House of Represntatives?

Zooey Zephyr is suing the state of Montana over what she calls an “unconstitutional” censure.

She was targeted by Republicans after she gave a passionate speech on 18 April against a bill that would restrict trans healthcare.

Zephyr said Montana Senate Bill 99, also known as the Provide for a Youth Health Protection Act, would be “tantamount to torture”.

She said: “If you disallow the use of the medical care that is accepted by every major medical association… the only therapy left is either meaningless, or conversion therapy, which is torture.”

Montana Republicans demanded she be reprimanded for “inappropriate and uncalled-for language”.

House Speaker Matt Regier refused to acknowledge Zephyr or let her speak in the chamber, and on April 26 the House voted to ban her.

Zephyr will keep her seat, but the measure bars her from being present on the House floor, anteroom, or galleries. She is allowed to vote remotely.

Following the vote, Zephyr said: “I will do as I have always done – rise on behalf of my constituents, in defence of my community, and for democracy itself.”

Zephyr returned to work the next day, sitting in the hallway to listen in on the legislative session.

Montana House Speaker, Republican Matt Regier took issue with this setup.

In an Associated Press (AP) video, Regier was heard telling Zephyr she could not work in the public area and that she should work in the Democratic Party offices instead.

Zephyr told AP she was sitting in the hallway because she wants to be as “close” as she can to the “people’s house.”

“I was barred from there, but if I’m not barred from here, I want to be here, because I want to be as close as I can be,” she said.

On Twitter, she added: “Though they initially tried to have me removed from the public seating area, I am here working on behalf of my constituents as best I can given the undemocratic circumstances.

I’m talking to legislators, listening to debate, voting on bills, and fighting for democracy.”

Republican Montana governor Greg Gianforte signed the highly controversial trans healthcare ban bill into law on 28 April. It will go into effect on October 1.

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