State Rep. Zooey Zephyr sues Montana over censure

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Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr is suing the state over being censured last week following a standoff against GOP leadership that began with her opposition to a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors.

The lawsuit filed Monday argues that the decision to censure Zephyr is a violation of the representative’s “First Amendment rights and the rights of her 11,000 constituents to representation in their state government.”

It seeks to restore all of Zephyr’s legislative rights immediately and aims to have a restraining order placed on Regier and Sergeant at Arms Bradley Murfitt, who controls access to the House.

Without this, Zephyr won’t be able to publicly debate pieces of legislation, including the state’s budget, which has not yet been finalized, the lawsuit argues.

“Representative Zephyr was elected by the people of her district after running on the very principles she is now being punished for defending,” Alex Rate, legal director of the ACLU of Montana 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.”

House Speaker Matt Regier first silenced Zephyr, who is the state’s first openly trans lawmaker, last month after she made comments on the House floor regarding the anti-trans legislation, SB 99. Regier claimed the Democrat’s comments violated the state Legislature’s rules of decorum.

“If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture and this body should be ashamed,” Zephyr said on April 18 during a debate.

“If you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an indication when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”

Studies show that suicidality rates among trans teenagers increase if they’re denied access to care and medication, like puberty blockers, which help them transition.

The issue came to a head when protestors swarmed the House, leading to the arrests of seven people and, ultimately, 68 lawmakers voting in favor of censuring Zephyr last Wednesday. Thirty-two other lawmakers – all Democrats – voted against censure.

Just two days later, Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed SB 99 into law, despite protests from his own trans son.

Zephyr has taken to mainly working from the lobby of the state Capitol since being censured.

“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,” Zephyr said in a press release distributed by the American Civil Liberties Union, a group representing the lawmaker, in response to the lawsuit filed against the state of Montana.

“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.”

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