Montana GOP may "expel" transgender lawmaker

GOP sets vote to discipline state Rep. Zooey Zephyr over her "rhetoric" against a ban on gender-affirming care

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published April 26, 2023 11:22AM (EDT)

Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) (Montana State Legislature)
Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) (Montana State Legislature)

Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a transgender Democrat from Missoula, said Tuesday that she will face a disciplinary vote on Wednesday over "conduct" that "violated the rules, collective rights, safety, dignity, integrity, or decorum of the House."

Zephyr, the first openly transgender woman elected to Montana's legislature, has faced off with House Republicans since April 18, when she made a speech on the House floor opposing a ban on gender-affirming healthcare.

"There will be blood on your hands," she told her fellow lawmakers.

Zephyr's comments were not received well by conservative members of the House, who accused her of using "hateful rhetoric." House Speaker Matt Reiger told her she would not be allowed to speak again until she apologized, leading to impassioned protests and several subsequent arrests on Monday.

On Tuesday night, Zephyr posted a letter she had received from GOP House leaders, which states she will face a motion on Wednesday to determine whether her "actions" during Monday's events warrant "disciplinary consequences."

"I have been informed that during tomorrow's floor session there will be a motion to either censure or expel me," she wrote. "I've also been told I'll get a chance to speak. I will do as I have always done—rise on behalf of my constituents, in defense of my community, & for democracy itself."

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The letter stipulates that the "proceedings" can be viewed online via the legislative branch website, as the House galleries will be closed to the public to "maintain decorum and ensure safety."

The situation at Montana's state House comes just weeks after Republicans in Tennessee's House expelled two Black Democratic lawmakers, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, for leading demonstrations fighting for gun control on the chamber floor in the wake of the Nashville mass shooting. A third white Democratic state representative, Gloria Johnson, was ultimately not expelled. Jones and Pearson have since been reappointed to their seats on an interim basis by local boards.

In an interview with CBS News earlier on Tuesday evening, Zephyr said that there are "no doubt connections" between how she has been silenced and the case of the "Tennessee Three."

"I think what we're seeing is that when marginalized communities, communities who are impacted the most by legislation, rise up and speak to the harm, whether it's me speaking on trans issues, whether it's young Black men speaking on gun violence," she said. "Those folks in power, particularly on the far right, do not want to be held accountable for the real harm that these bills bring."

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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Brief Lgbtq Politics Zooey Zephyr