Representative Democracy got its bell rung in Tennessee last month when House Republicans there moved to expel State Representatives Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin J. Pearson from their seats because they joined their constituents, and students from across the state, in protests against the state’s lax gun laws.
Last week, it took another body blow, this time in Montana, when the State’s GOP-led House voted to censure and ban Representative Zooey Zephyr from the House floor over issues of (checks notes) “decorum.” Zephyr is Montana’s first, and only, transgender lawmaker. She won her 2022 race with close to 80% of the vote and represents District 100, which includes Missoula, the state’s second most populous city.
As you might expect, Rep. Zephyr has been a vocal critic of bills banning gender-affirming care and drag performances in the state. Earlier this month she spoke out against amendments to Senate Bill 99 using harsh (but accurate!) words to condemn her fellow lawmakers voting for the bill.
Those comments hurt the feelings of some of Zephyr’s more bigoted coworkers. Snowflakes, amirite? But Zephyr refuses to apologize for those comments. Rightfully so. The sponsor of Bill 99 has made it clear that she’s OK with blood, even if it belongs to her own child:
Montana bill sponsor: I prefer my transgender daughter commit suicide rather than allow her to transition.— The Intellectualist (@highbrow_nobrow) April 27, 2023
- Rep. Kerri Seekins-Crowe (R)pic.twitter.com/28e1aCWiR7
There’s some sort of pathological issue at play here with people who take their children’s development as a personal affront. I think Kayleigh uses the term “ice cream brain” and I’m going to borrow that here. You really must have nothing but melted ice cream between your ears if you think allowing your child to live a happy life, in which they cause no harm, as their true selves will tear your family apart more than torturing them with conversion therapy or forcing them to live for years with life-threatening depression.
With her comments, Representative Zooey Zephyr stood behind not only her constituents but also children and trans adults all over her state. And the GOP punished her for it. After that session, Speaker Matt Regier refused to acknowledge her right to speak during debates and she began documenting these anti-democratic tactics on social media.
The Republican Party of Montana is refusing to allow me—a transgender Representative—to speak on any bill. This is fundamentally undemocratic.— Rep. Zooey Zephyr (@ZoAndBehold) April 20, 2023
My light is on, and I am ready to speak on behalf of the constituents who elected me to do so. pic.twitter.com/pdijLUQsCc
Early last week, Rep. Zephyr’s supporters filled the galleries of the State House to protest the vote taking place to ban or censure her. Riot police were called in, people were arrested with a swiftness that would make January 6th’s head spin. Despite the protest, Zooey was barred from the House floor. While she’ll be allowed to vote she will not be allowed to speak.
As I left the House chambers, I pressed my light to speak—a reminder that this legislature is removing 11,000 Montanans from discussion on every bill going forward.— Rep. Zooey Zephyr (@ZoAndBehold) April 26, 2023
I will always stand on behalf of my constituents, my community, and democracy itself. pic.twitter.com/H3CLZufy6E
She’s a tough cookie who takes her responsibilities to her voters very seriously. So, she moved her workspace to the bench in the public seating area outside of the Hearing Room to be as close to “the people’s house” as possible while she votes remotely. And even that wasn’t enough for the Speaker, who attempted to have her removed from that spot too.
But she was still there on Friday when House Judiciary Committee Clerk Jamie Van Valkenburg resigned her position in support of Zephyr and in protest of her ban. And even though Montana Republicans procedurally removed every bill from her committees, she’ll be there on Monday. She’s ready to fight for the rights of her constituents and to be their voice in the House.
Nebraska Senator Megan Hunt is also part of the fight. While support for trans lives spreads, so does the backlash against it.
Don’t be an ice cream brain. Support Trans lives. We all need to join the fight for Zooey Zephyr’s right to represent her district and the rights of all trans people, however old they are and in whatever state they live.