Tension Builds in Transgender Policy Debate in Montana

by | Apr 21, 2023 | Health

On April 13, Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr was sitting in the basement of Montana’s Capitol building reflecting on her time as one of the state’s first two openly transgender legislators. She wondered whether she needed to display more anger over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, or whether she should focus on promoting more of what she called “transgender joy.”

“The thing that keeps me up at night is, am I doing a good job for my community?” Zephyr said.

Five days later, the anger bubbled over as Zephyr spoke against amendments from Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte to Senate Bill 99, which would prohibit minors with gender dysphoria from receiving certain medical and surgical treatments. Zephyr said the lawmakers who voted for the measure should be ashamed.

That prompted Republican Majority Leader Sue Vinton to speak. “We will not be shamed by anyone in this chamber,” Vinton said.

“Then the only thing I will say is: If you vote yes on this bill, and yes on these amendments, I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands,” Zephyr said in response.

Later that day, the Montana Freedom Caucus, a conservative group of lawmakers, released a statement calling for Zephyr’s censure for using “inappropriate and uncalled-for language.” The release and a Freedom Caucus post on Twitter used male pronouns to refer to Zephyr, leading to fresh outrage by LGBTQ+ supporters accusing Republicans of deliberatel …

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