Montana's first openly transgender state lawmaker, Rep. Zooey Zephyr, has been barred from speaking on the House floor until she publicly apologizes for telling Republicans they should be ashamed of their votes in favor of a bill banning gender-affirming care for children in Montana. The decision came from Speaker Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, who declined to recognize Rep. Zephyr when she attempted to address the chamber.
This event sparked objections from minority leader and led to a House Rules Committee hearing as well as an unsuccessful challenge aimed at overturning the ruling. The right-wing Montana Freedom Caucus misgendered Zephyr while calling for her censure.
In response to these developments, Rep. Zooey Zephyr released a statement saying she was "unconcerned" with calls for censure and that she was speaking on behalf of the trans community regarding bill SB458 proposed by Kila Republican Sen. Carl Glimm.
House Speaker Helena Regier refused to let Zooey Zephyr speak about bills on the floor until she apologized for her statement that lawmakers would have "blood on their hands" if they supported a ban against gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth in 2023.
Democrats objected but were overruled by both the House Rules committee and party-line votes within the House itself. Regier justified his decision after having had "multiple discussions" with other lawmakers concerning past issues similar in nature.
The Montana Freedom Caucus issued its demand for censure through a letter which called upon civil discourse while deliberately misgendering Rep. Zooey Zephyr throughout its contents.
Rep Marilyn Marler defended her Democratic colleague by arguing that Republicans were denying her opportunity to fulfill her duties effectively as an elected representative; however, Majority Leader Sue Vinton refuted this claim without further comment.
As the legislative session continues, Zephyr has expressed her understanding that she will not be acknowledged by the House Speaker and has since attempted to speak on another bill which misdefines sex as binary, excluding trans people from 40 sections of Montana code.
House Speaker Matt Regier and Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Kim Abbott have both declined to comment further on this matter.