Transgender Lawmaker Sues Montana Over Censure
Supporters hold signs near a rally in support of transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr on April 29, 2023 in Livingston, Montana. Zephyr was banned from the floor of the Montana legislature after speaking out against an anti-transgender bill.
(Photo by William Campbell/Getty Images)

State Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-Missoula) announced a lawsuit in response to the GOP-led Montana House of Representatives censuring the transgender lawmaker last week.

“I’m suing,” Zephyr said in a tweet on Monday. “The recent actions violate my 1st amendment rights, as well as the rights of my 11,000 constituents to representation. Montana’s 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.”

The complaint, in which lawyers ask a court to reinstate Zephyr on the chamber floor, lists the state of Montana, Montana House Speaker Matt Regier, and Montana House Sergeant-at-Arms Bradley Murfitt as defendants. Zephyr and Missoula County constituents are listed as plaintiffs.

The legislature voted to bar Zephyr, a biological man who identifies as a woman, from attending or speaking at floor sessions after the lawmaker held up a microphone as supporters disrupted the proceedings in the Montana House chamber while chanting, “Let her speak!” The commotion led to several arrests.

That standoff took place as Republican leadership refused to recognize Zephyr to speak, citing violations of decorum rules after Zephyr lashed out at other lawmakers who support legislation that would crack down on transgender surgeries for minors.


“I hope the next time there’s an invocation when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands,” Zephyr had said, referring to the opening prayer.

The censure punishes Zephyr for the remainder of the current legislative session, which is set to end this week, but still allowed Zephyr to vote remotely. Regardless of the short period of time, Zephyr’s complaint argues that the lawmaker is being silenced at an important juncture.

“In the waning days of the legislative session the Montana House of Representatives is poised to consider critical legislation,” the lawsuit states. “House Bill 2 — the State’s budget bill, touching all corners of government and affecting every citizen in the State — will be debated on the floor of the House this week. Representative Zephyr’s Censure prevents her voice — and by extension the voices of her 11,000 constituents — from being heard on perhaps the most consequential bill the Legislature will consider this session.”

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