Montana's Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to ban transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, from attending the remainder of the current legislative session. Image courtesy of Montana Legislature
April 26 (UPI) -- Montana's Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to ban transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, from attending the remainder of the current legislative session.
The vote passed by a 68 to 32 margin and will also mean the 34-year-old is blocked from being recognized to speak.
She will retain her seat in the legislature and be able to cast votes remotely until the session ends, which is scheduled to happen next week.
"Today I stood unwaveringly in defense of my constituents, my community, and democracy itself. And I pledge to always do so," Zephyr, the state's first openly transgender female lawmaker, said in a Tweet after the vote.
The "disciplinary consequences" stems from a protest that erupted over the Republican Speaker's refusal to allow her to speak during several proceedings this week.
Specifically, her actions on the House floor during Monday's protest are what triggered Wednesday's vote, according to a letter forwarded to her Tuesday by Republican House leaders and signed by House Speaker Matt Regier, of Kalispell.
"In a disturbing affront to democracy, today the Montana House of Representatives voted along party lines to ban me from the house floor, effectively stripping me of the ability to represent my 11,000 constituents in debate," Zephyr said in an open letter penned Wednesday on her official letterhead.
"After silencing me for a week, they then proceeded to silence hundreds of Montanans who showed up to demand that their representative's voice be heard," Zephyr said.
The decision comes after people were arrested during a protest Monday in the gallery of the state House that interrupted the legislative session. That protest was held because, since April 18, Zephyr has been denied the opportunity to speak on the House floor at least three times. Those denials came after Zephyr said Republicans would have "blood on your hands" if they approved a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors.
"Headlines that have happened over the last week, stating that Montana House leadership or GOP has silenced anyone is false," Regier had said earlier in the week before canceling Tuesday's legislative session to discuss what action should be taken on Zephyr.
"Currently, all representatives are free to participate in House debates while following the House rules. The choice to not follow House rules is one that Rep. Zephyr has made. The only person silencing Rep. Zephyr is Rep. Zephyr. The Montana House will not be bullied. All 100 representatives will continue to be treated the same."
Zephyr, 34, has drawn parallels between her political plight and that of three lawmakers who faced Republican backlash after staging a gun control protest in the Tennessee Capitol in late March.
"There are no doubts there are connections," Zephyr told CBS. "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. Those folks in power, particularly on the far right, do not want to be held accountable for the real harm that these bills bring."
Zephyr has refused to apologize for her comments targeting Republicans.
"If I did it again, I would stand by what I said, because, again, I see the harm that these bills bring," she said.
"I remain steadfast in my commitment to my community. I will continue to make the difficult moral choices necessary to stand up for the people who entrusted me with their representation," Zephyr wrote in her letter Wednesday.