Rep. Zooey Zephyr spoke with Scripps News' "Morning Rush" hosts Rob Nelson and Lindsay Tuchman after she was expelled from the Montana House of Representatives.
On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers voted 68 to 32 to ban Montana's first openly transgender female representative from the House after she spoke out against a ban on gender-affirming care for youth. Lawmakers say Zephyr was being hyperbolic in saying they would have blood on their hands after that ban, but Zephyr says she was speaking to the real consequences she has seen firsthand.
"When it comes to gender-affirming care — It's important to note that they're banning health care that is approved by every major medical association in our country," Zephyr said. "And there are statistics that we can talk about. There's a 73% reduction in suicidality for trans youth who have access to gender-affirming care. But I also see first hand experiences. I've lost friends to suicide, I have friends who've been assaulted, Montanans reaching out about being assaulted on the streets because of policies like this. And we even heard from a family whose trans teenager attempted suicide while listening to one of these anti-trans hearings. So I see the way these bills bring real harm."
Zephyr says she was holding the legislature accountable for the policies they're bringing forward. She also says there's a "mismatch" between the policies lawmakers are trying to pass and what Americans actually want, citing the Tennessee lawmakers who were recently expelled and reinstated after protesting in favor of gun reform.
"We're seeing legislators rise up and say, 'No, this isn't acceptable' and calling out the real harm that these policies do and in response, those legislatures are trying to shut down that discussion," Zephyr said.
Montana Speaker of the House Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, has expressed concerns of Zephyr following decorum in the chamber. However, Zephyr says that's hypocritical and overall, there's an unequal and undemocratic application of the "fuzzy concept" of decorum in this legislature.
"It's hypocritical of them to call for decorum at the same time they repeatedly and intentionally misgender me. But, this is coming from a caucus that advocates, in theory, limited government while using government to take away health care from people who need it," Zephyr told Scripps News.
While she won't be allowed back into Montana's House chambers during this legislative session, Zephyr says she walked out with her head held high and she's continuing to keep her head held high to do the work her constituents are counting on her for.
"As we see major housing bills, as we see the state's budget come forward, there are still 11,000 Montanans whose voices are not represented in that debate. My heart is set on doing what I can to make sure voices are heard," she said.
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