Transgender Montana Lawmaker Censured

On April 26 2023, a popular post shared to Reddit’s r/politics claimed that Republicans had been “trying to expel the first [transgender]” lawmaker in Montana after she said that Republicans would have “blood on their hands” for passing a ban on gender-affirming care for minors:

Linked by the submitter was an April 26 2023 article of the same name, reporting:

Fact Check

Claim: Montana’s House of Representatives “voted to discipline” Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), the state’s first transgender lawmaker.

Description: Republican lawmakers in Montana’s House of Representatives censured Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the state’s first transgender lawmaker, due to her remarks during a floor debate on gender-affirming care.


Rating Explanation: Multiple sources confirmed that Rep. Zooey Zephyr was censured, including a tweet from Zephyr herself, making the claim true.

Rep. Zooey Zephyr was sworn in just three months ago [in January 2023] after winning a Missoula-based seat in November [2022]. GOP leaders have refused to recognize her in floor debates until she apologizes for the [“blood on their hands”] comment. On Monday April 24 2023, supporters rallied on the steps of the state Capitol, and chants of “Let her speak!” shut down proceedings in the House for nearly a half-hour, as Zephyr hoisted her microphone above her head.

As indicated, Rep. Zooey Zephyr was sworn in on January 2 2023. LGBTQ+ news site covered Zephyr’s swearing in at the time:

Zephyr, the first trans woman to be elected to the Montana state legislature, took the Oath of Office on Monday [January 2 2023], documenting the process on TikTok … Born in Billings, Montana, Zephyr was an activist and a graduate student prior to her election to the state’s House of Representatives. In an interview with Them ahead of the November [2022] midterm election, she said she wanted to be a part of the Montana’s lawmaking process because of the lack of trans people helping to make decisions at the state level, especially given the number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced the Montana legislature, including a trans athlete ban that was passed and signed in May [2022].

On April 25 2023, Zephyr tweeted an image of a letter she received, stating that she had been informed that during the April 26 2023 floor session “there will be a motion to either censure or expel” her:

In part, the letter Zephyr received stated a motion would be made to “determine if [Zephyr]’s conduct on the Floor of the House on April 24, 2023 violated the rules, collective rights, safety, dignity, integrity, or decorum” of the House, “and if so, whether to impose disciplinary consequences for those actions.” Broadly, the tenor of the letter was uncannily similar to the details of a then-recent controversy through which two Black lawmakers were “expelled” in Tennessee:

On the afternoon of April 26 2023, independent journalist Erin Reed tweeted that the motion targeting Rep. Zephyr succeeded, and that she would be “censured for the rest of the session”:

The New York Times published an article about the motion, reporting:

The Montana House of Representatives took the extraordinary step of blocking the state’s only transgender lawmaker from the House floor for the remainder of the legislative session on Wednesday [April 26 2023] after an escalating standoff over her ability to speak in the House led to heated protests and arrests on Monday [April 24 2023] and the abrupt cancellation of Tuesday [April 25 2023]’s session.

The vote was 68 to 32 in the Republican-controlled chamber. The speaker adjourned the session immediately after the vote. Ms. Zephyr will still be allowed to cast votes during House proceedings for the remainder of session, which concludes on May 5 [2023], but must do so remotely.

The Times added that “major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics” supported the gender affirming healthcare for which Zephyr argued in favor. ABC News quoted Zephyr, and reiterated that gender affirming medical care is favored by public health experts and evidence-based:

“I rose up in defense of my community that day, speaking to harms that these bills bring 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,” she said on the House floor.

Zephyr said, “When the speaker asks me to apologize … on behalf of decorum, what he’s really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed.”

The “Youth Health Protection Act” would restrict the use of hormone therapy, puberty blockers and surgeries on people under age 18 for the purposes of gender transitioning.

Gender-affirming care has been found to be associated with improved mental health of transgender adolescents and teenagers, according to research in the New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA Pediatrics.

On August 22 2022, JAMA Pediatrics published an article titled “Scientific Misinformation Is Criminalizing the Standard of Care for Transgender Youth.” Its abstract identified specific states where bans on gender affirming care were passed in 2021 and 2022, explaining that the cited legislation was predicated on political bias rather than science-based medicine.

The abstract concluded by stating political bans on healthcare forced parents and doctors into a position where “the law and the standard of care conflict”:

Transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) youth in the US face growing sociopolitical obstacles in pursuit of health care. In 2021 and 2022, Arkansas and Alabama enacted legislative bans on gender-affirming care (GAC), with penalties for physicians ranging from loss of licensure to imprisonment. In 2022, the Texas attorney general set a troubling precedent by issuing a legal opinion equating GAC with child abuse, claiming that this treatment constitutes forced sterilization and experimentation.1 Such actions rely on scientific misinformation, retracted research, and politically biased sources. As of June 2022, enforcement of the Arkansas and Alabama laws has been temporarily enjoined by the federal courts, but the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has continued investigations into parents who provide GAC to their children. A summary of legal initiatives is presented in the Table. These bans on GAC place guardians and health care professionals in an ethically precarious position, in which the law and the standard of care conflict.

After the motion passed, Zephyr tweeted a statement:

On April 26 2023, a popular Reddit post indicated a Montana state lawmaker (Rep. Zooey Zephyr) was targeted for censure in the state’s House. Zephyr was later censured due to a floor debate on gender-affirming care on April 24 2023. She released a statement, saying she remained “steadfast,” and planned to “continue to make the difficult moral choices necessary to stand up for the people” who elected her.