Republicans in the Montana House of Representatives voted Wednesday to censure Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat and Montana’s first transgender state legislator. The vote came about a week after Zephyr told lawmakers they would have blood on their hands if they supported a measure to restrict gender-affirming care for minors and two days after she was charged with inciting protesters. in the camera.
The House voted 68-32 along party lines to censure Zephyr. He will keep his position, but he will be prohibited from physically participating on the Chamber floor. He will only be able to vote and attend sessions remotely for the remainder of the legislative session, which ends May 5.
Zephyr was allowed to speak before the vote of no confidence. He defended comments made last Tuesday during the debate on a bill to restrict transitional care for minors, when he said: «I hope that the next time there is an invocation, when you bow your head in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.»
He said Wednesday that the Legislature has «systematically attacked» the LGBTQ community and that he spoke out in their defense last week.
“I have had friends take their lives because of these bills,” he told the House. “I received calls from families in Montana, including a family whose trans teen attempted suicide while watching a hearing on one of the anti-trans bills.”
So, Zephyr added, she «wasn’t being hyperbolic» when she said «there’s blood on your hands.»
“I was talking about the real consequences of the votes that we as legislators take in this body,” he said. “When the speaker asks me to apologize in the name of propriety, what he is really asking me to do is keep quiet when my community faces bills that get us killed. He asks me to be complicit in this Legislature’s eradication of our community, and I refuse to do so.»
He added: “If you use decorum to silence the people who hold you accountable, then all you are doing is using decorum as a tool of oppression.”
Rep. David Bedey, a Republican, blamed Zephyr for the actions of protesters Monday, when they yelled from the gallery after Republicans voted to stop him from speaking.
“It is an irrefutable fact that the representative in question did indeed actively support and arguably incite the disturbing antics of the protesters who had gathered on the House verandah,” Bedey said.
He said Zephyr could have joined other lawmakers in leaving the House floor as directed by the speaker that day, or could have tried to calm the crowd, but said he didn’t, forcing lawmakers to call off the meeting. session.
“This is an assault on our representative democracy,” he said. «Lively debate and the free expression of ideas cannot flourish in an atmosphere of turmoil and incivility.»
Zephyr’s comments Wednesday marked the first time she was allowed to speak on the House floor since last week, when lawmakers voted Tuesday to bar her from speaking on any legislation because of the «blood on her hands» comment.
Two days later, on Thursday, House Speaker Matt Regier refused to recognize Zephyr and would not allow her to speak on any legislation.
Then on Monday, Zephyr supporters rallied in front of the Capitol with banners that read: «Democracy dies here.» Later that afternoon, when the House voted again to continue blocking Zephyr from speaking, protesters sitting on the gallery chanted, «Let her speak!» while the legislator held her microphone in the air. Seven people were arrested for trespassing, the sheriff said.
Shared Regier’s office a declaration on Monday night describing the events as a «riot.»
The Montana Freedom Caucus, a group of 21 Montana Republicans, led the charge to censure Zephyr, posting multiple statements on social media that misinterpret her by using male pronouns to describe her. In a statement after the protest, the caucus said Zephyr encouraged «an insurrection» by holding her microphone in the air.
Regier canceled Tuesday’s plenary session without explanation, and that evening Zephyr shared on social media a letter from Regier’s office saying the House would consider a motion Wednesday on whether to discipline her and, if so, censure or expel her.
The vote follows similar events in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month, when Republican lawmakers voted to oust Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two black Democrats, for their chamber protests against gun violence. The House fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to expel Rep. Gloria Johnson, a white lawmaker who also participated in the protests.
Days later, officials in Nashville and Memphis, the respective cities that Jones and Pearson represent, voted to reinstate them.