Republicans have a new move in state legislatures: kicking out their Democratic colleagues on the flimsiest of excuses, but as we’ve seen, the Dems are not taking it lying down.
Progressive legislators are pushing back fiercely, and in Montana, Representative Zooey Zephyr is suing, demanding full restoration of legislative rights.
Zephyr argues that by voting not only not to let her participate in discussion on legislation, but actively kicking her out of the room where the work takes place, Republicans in the Montana House of Representatives are depriving her constituents of the right of representation, and punishing her inappropriately for speaking on behalf of transgender people in her district.
Residents of her district are speaking up, too, joining the lawsuit, and affirming that they elected Zephyr to fight to protect transgender people, including trans kids, who are at disproportionate risk of suicide, particularly when struggling with an environment that is not accepting.
The suit argues that even before the vote to censure her, the House of Representatives unlawfully silenced her by refusing to acknowledge her in debate, and that this was done “retaliation for her speech on a matter of life-or-death importance to her constituents and her community.”
The efforts to silence her and disenfranchise her constituents, Zephyr argues, are just one more attack on transgender and nonbinary people, following the legislature’s efforts to pass numerous bills attacking LGBTQ rights.
The case names as defendants House Speaker Matt Regier (R), Sergeant at Arms Bradley Murfitt, and the state of Montana. ACLU Montana’s legal director, Alex Rate, weighs in:
“In his craven pursuit to deny transgender youth and their families the health care they need, Speaker Regier has unfairly, unjustly, and unconstitutionally silenced those voters by silencing their representative. His actions are a direct threat to the bedrock principles that uphold our entire democracy, and we welcome the privilege of defending the people of Montana’s 100th House District from this desperate and autocratic effort to silence them.”
You can see Zephyr’s announcement of the lawsuit below, and read previous coverage here.
This all follows a similar incident in Tennessee, where a Republican majority voted to kick out two Democratic legislators for speaking in support of students who were protesting to plead for gun control after a school shooting in Nashville.
In that case, the legislators have already been restored, for now, and the House Speaker who set the events in motion is under new scrutiny, having inadvertently drawn attention to his own alleged misdeeds.
The recent actions violate my 1st amendment rights, as well as the rights of my 11,000 constituents to representation.
Montana's State House is the people’s House, not Speaker Regier’s, and I’m determined to defend the right of the people to have their voices heard. pic.twitter.com/eyDjgchWPQ
— Rep. Zooey Zephyr (@ZoAndBehold) May 1, 2023