Zooey Zephyr explains how Republicans are spreading ‘Christian nationalism’
Trans Montana representative Zooey Zephyr gave a withering assessment of the GOP following the end of her suspension from the state house.
The Democratic Missoula representative said that GOP politicians had “overplayed their hand” by voting to temporarily suspend her for the remainder of the 2023 legislative session during a speech at the Flathead Democrats gathering on Saturday (6 May).
Zephyr gained national attention in April after she was publicly censured and later banned from the House floor by Montana representatives for speaking out against an anti-trans healthcare bill.
The representative eventually returned to the House floor following the end of the term and, therefore, the suspension on Tuesday (2 May).
Addressing supporters, Zephyr argued that the Republicans both statewide and nationally were abusing the legislative process to meet their ends.
“Here in this session, I think [the GOP] overplayed their hand and said … ‘We’re going to throw away democracy, that’s what we’ll do altogether, just toss it to the side to achieve the goals we want’, with a brand of, quite frankly, Christian nationalism that is trying to put down roots in this part of our state.
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“I think it’s important to remember that the family leading this charge has only been in politics for 15 years or so,” she added, appearing to reference House speaker Matt Regier and his family, several of whom are also politicians.
For some Republican represenatives, pushing Christian nationalism is part of their mission as political legislators.
Notorious far-right Georgia representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has, on multiple occasions, boasted about identifying as a Christian nationalist.
The term typically refers to the isolationist political belief that focuses on passing laws which better reflect a person’s view of Christian society.
For many, this involves anti-immigration policies or anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. For others, it could refer to anti-abortion laws.
The term is often synonymous with fascism and has been used by fascist groups across the world to justify excluding marginalised groups.
ACLU sues Montana for anti-trans law
Zephyr’s comments coincide with the ACLU Montana’s announcement that it would be suing the state for its passing of SB99.
Montana Senate Bill 99, also known as the Provide for a Youth Protection Act, effectively bans gender-affirming care for under-18s by cutting state funding to medical organisations that prescribe physically reversible puberty blockers.
The bill was passed and eventually signed into law by governor Greg Gianforte several days after Zephyr accused its supporters of having “blood on their hands”, leading to her being silenced by House speaker Matt Regier.
In a tweet on Tuesday (9 May), the ACLU said this was the “sixth time” it had sued a state to “defend trans youths’ health care” over the last month.
A state judge had previously denied a 1 May lawsuit filed by the ACLU seeking the reinstatement of Zooey Zephyr to the House, saying the ban was a “violation of her own First Amendment rights and the rights of her 11,000 constituents”.
Legal director Alex Rate said in a statement: “Representative Zephyr was elected by the people of her district after running on the very principles she is now being punished for defending.
“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.”
In response, district court judge Mike Menahan ruled the following day that his authority did not extend to overrulling decisions made by legislatures and, as a result, could not reinstate Zephyr.
Hours before her return to the House floor, Zephyr tweeted that the decision “undermines the democratic principles our country was founded on.”
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