Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), the state’s first openly transgender lawmaker who was censured last month by Republicans in the state House, posed for a photo with members of “The Squad” during a visit to Capitol Hill on Thursday.
Zephyr was officially censured by the Montana House, in which Republicans have a supermajority, late last month after she warned during a hearing that lawmakers who voted to pass legislation banning gender-affirming health care for transgender minors would have “blood on your hands,” citing disproportionately high rates of attempted suicide among transgender and nonbinary young people.
“If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture,” Zephyr said during last month’s hearing on Senate Bill 99, which passed the legislature shortly after her remarks.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law late last month. It will take effect in October.
Responding to Zephyr’s comments on the House floor, the Montana Freedom Caucus — a coalition of state House and Senate Republicans — said Zephyr in arguing against the measure had used “inappropriate and uncalled-for language” and should be immediately censured for attempting to shame members of the legislature.
In the week leading up to her censure, Montana House Speaker Matt Regier (R) refused to recognize Zephyr for debate on a bill. Regier also deactivated her microphone, a lawsuit filed this month by Zephyr alleges.
Zephyr’s censure has been widely criticized by Democrats, including “Squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre last month said it was “undemocratic” of the Montana House to censure Zephyr.
“When you see these types of things, silencing an elected representative, in an attempt to suppress their message, is a denial of democratic values,” she said.
Montana House Republicans’ move to censure Zephyr is one of several strikingly similar instances that have taken place in GOP-controlled state legislatures this year.
In March, state Republicans in Oklahoma voted to censure Democratic Rep. Mauree Turner, the nation’s first openly nonbinary state legislator, after Turner allowed an individual protesting at the capitol to use their office following an arrest. The demonstrator had been protesting against the legislature’s efforts to bar minors from accessing gender-affirming health care — care that is considered medically necessary by most major medical organizations.
In Nebraska last month, Sen. Megan Hunt (I), the mother of a transgender child, said she was being investigated for a potential conflict of interest after she voted against a bill that would ban gender-affirming health care for minors.
Two Black Democratic state lawmakers — Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson — were expelled from Tennessee’s GOP-controlled legislature in March after they joined a protest at the capitol calling for stronger gun laws.
Both legislators have since been reinstated. State Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white and protested alongside Jones and Pearson, was not expelled.
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