Zooey Zephyr Banned From Montana House for Remainder of Session

Republican lawmakers in Montana voted on Wednesday, April 26, to ban Democrat Zooey Zephyr from the State House for the remainder of the current legislative session.

According to the Missoulian newspaper, the motion passed 68-32 with all Republicans in favor, and Democrats united against.

Zephyr will be able to vote on proceedings remotely, but will be blocked from accessing the House chamber, anteroom or gallery, the outlet said. Zephyr called the ban “undemocratic”.

The move follows tensions that have been brewing since Zephyr was blocked from speaking until she apologized for remarks made during a debate over a proposed ban on certain medical treatments for transgender minors. Credit: Montana Public Affairs Network via Storyful

Video transcript

ZOOEY ZEPHYR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is my honor today, as with every day in this body, to rise on behalf of my constituents in House District 100 from Missoula, Montana, who elected me to be their representative in the people's House. Today, I rise in defense of those constituents, of my community, and of democracy itself.

Last week, I spoke on the governor's amendments to Senate Bill 99, which banned gender-affirming care. This was a bill that was one of many targeting the LGBTQ community in Montana. This legislature has systematically attacked that community. We have seen bills targeting our art forms, our books, our history, and our health care.

And I rose up in defense of my community that day, speaking to harms that these bills bring and that I have firsthand experience knowing about. I have had friends who have taken their lives because of these bills. I have fielded calls from families in Montana, including one family whose trans teenager attempted to take her life while watching a hearing on one of the anti-trans bills.

And in that hearing, our caucus pleaded with the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee to not allow certain testimony to keep decorum. And we were told, a lot of people have a lot of opinions on these things. So when I rose up and said there is blood on your hands, I was not being hyperbolic. I was speaking to the real consequences of the votes that we, as legislators, take in this body.

And when the Speaker asks me to apologize, what he is-- on behalf of decorum, what he is really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed. He is asking me to be complicit in this legislature's eradication of our community. And I refuse to do so. And I will always refuse to do so.

I would also say that if you use decorum to silence people who hold you accountable, then in the name of-- all you are doing is using decorum as a tool of oppression. Additionally, when the Speaker disallowed me to speak, what he was doing is taking away the voices of the 11,000 Montanans who rep-- who elected me to speak on their behalf.

And when I was continued to not be recognized, what my constituents in my community did is came here and said, that is our voice in this body. Let her speak. Let her speak. And when the Speaker gaveled down the people demanding that democracy work, demanding that their representative be heard. When he gaveled down, what he was doing is driving a nail in the coffin of democracy.

But you cannot kill democracy that easily. And that is why they kept chanting, let her speak. And why I raised my microphone to amplify their voices, to make sure that the people who elected me here are heard. And that when this body seeks to pass bills that harm our community, that get us killed, that this body is held accountable for those actions.

I'm not sure what comes next here. But what I will say is I will do what I have always done. I will rise in support of my community. I will take the hard and moral choice, and stand up in defense of the people who elected me to do so and the people in our communities. And I will say, I'm grateful for those who stood up in defense of democracy on Monday. And I will also say that I hear everyone. I hear my constituents. I hear your constituents--

- One minute.

ZOOEY ZEPHYR: --who say, thank you for standing up. And while there were comments about safety, I would say that the protest was peaceful. And I would also say that when we talk safety, we think about the safety that our bills bring or don't bring because you say there was staff in danger. But I know in this building, in the quiet hallways when it's just me, the staff come up to me and they say thank you.

They say, thank you for defending our community because they have loved ones who these bills attack, who these bills hurt. And I will always stand up for them. And I will always, no matter what happens today, stand up for democracy in the state of Montana. Thank you.

- All those in favor of the majority leader's motion vote aye. Those opposed vote no. Clerk, record the vote. Are there absentee votes?

- Mr. Speaker, Representative Weatherwax votes no.

- Clerk, record the vote.

- Mr. Speaker, 68 representatives vote aye, 32 have voted no.

- Motion passes, Majority Leader Vinton.