The Montana House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on “disciplinary measures” against the state’s only transgender lawmaker, whom Republicans have silenced after she slammed their anti-trans legislation. That could mean censuring her or expelling her entirely.
Republicans have not allowed Zephyr to speak on the House floor since last week, when she spoke out against a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors. She warned that taking away health care would increase suicide among trans and nonbinary kids. “I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands,” she said at the time.
Montana residents have rallied around Zephyr, demanding she be allowed to speak. Things came to a head on Monday, when a protest broke out in the gallery after Zephyr was silenced once more. Chants of “Let her speak!” rang out as security escorted people out, arresting seven protesters. Zephyr held her microphone up to amplify the chants.
Republican House leadership set a vote for Wednesday to either censure or expel Zephyr over her “conduct.” She will be allowed to speak for the first time in nearly a week.
The House GOP has tried to cast Zephyr’s actions as disruptive. They called her initial comments inappropriate and disrespectful, misgendering her in the process, and accused her of trying to start an insurrection on Monday. They also held a press conference Tuesday, during which they insisted Zephyr was not being silenced, and then canceled House proceedings for the day.
Democratic lawmakers have come to Zephyr’s support, with House Minority Leader Kim Abbott slamming Republicans for “doubling down on their agenda of running roughshod over Montanans’ rights—to free expression, to peaceful protest, to equal justice under the law.” But Republicans have a supermajority in the chamber, and there isn’t much Democrats can do to stop them forging ahead with their agenda.
Zephyr’s situation is painfully reminiscent of Tennessee, where two Black Democratic lawmakers were expelled for joining protesters demanding gun control. Republicans there also compared the protests to the January 6 insurrection. Both lawmakers were ultimately reinstated.
“What you’re watching here, is you’re watching people who do not want to see democracy in action,” Zephyr said Monday after the protest.