News68th Session


Missoula businesses react to Rep. Zooey Zephyr ban in Montana House

Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 26, 2023

MISSOULA - While Rep. Zooey Zephyr is being restricted from speaking and attending the current Montana House session in person, her constituents in House District 100 have lost their voice as well.

There are several businesses in House District 100, which covers a section of Brooks Street, reaches the University District, and is bordered by Third Street and South Avenue.

Many of the people at these businesses are now concerned about their lack of representation in Helena.
"My thing is, it seems like a gross injustice to the 10,000-some people that live in this district," Jason Black, co-owner of Golden Leaf Studios on Kent Ave, says. "That the voice that they voted in to represent them is not allowed to even speak."

Jason Black and Sharlyssa Duncan own Golden Leaf Studio in Missoula. Duncan says she is outraged by the decisions to stop Zooey Zephyr from speaking at The Montana House.
"It's unconstitutional," she says.

Some individuals felt strongly in support of Zephyr and her campaign, like Black and Sharlyssa Duncan, co-owners of Golden Leaf Studios, who display various pro-LGBTQ+ rights posters in their storefront window.

"We do like equality, we do like to be heard. With our business specifically, we see a lot of that LGBT population, and it's disheartening," Duncan says. "As a human being who lives here, it’s painful to see.”

While other business owners were less concerned about the specific issues being debated and more concerned about upholding democracy.

"No matter what you think about this particular issue, it could be another issue that you're more passionate about or have a different opinion about, and then all of a sudden your representative isn't having their voice heard," Collin Pruitt, owner of Slant Street Records on Higgins Ave. says. "That's really what it comes down to is that our elected representatives need to be acknowledged."

Collin Pruitt owns Slant Street Records on Higgins Ave. He says he wants to remain impartial, but is still concerned about stopping any representative, whether Zephyr or someone else, from speaking.

"I really feel it has a chilling effect on democracy and freedom of speech everywhere," Glenda Bradshaw, owner of Clyde Coffee, says.

They worry that if their representative isn't given the floor to speak, they will not be able to fight for issues that affect House District 100's businesses and residents.

“Zooey, or any other representative, is really a proxy for his or her constituents. So when you are silencing any individual, you are silencing all of their constituents," Bradshaw says. "In Zooey's case, it doesn't allow her to work on behalf and fulfill her campaign promises to her constituents."

Those campaign promises, as Bradshaw pointed out, go beyond LGBT rights. Zephyr's goals in her time as representative included addressing human rights, housing inequality, healthcare, infrastructure and climate change.

Glenda Bradshaw
Glenda Bradshaw owns Clyde Coffee. She is concerned that a representative is not allowed to speak on issues that concern her constituents.

"That to me seems like the definition of undemocratic."

Bradshaw and other business owners say they would have been upset with any representative or party getting "silenced" because it disrupts the democratic process.

"Today it may be Zooey Zephyr saying something that the majority doesn't like, tomorrow it may be a conservative person in another county saying something that the liberal majority doesn't like and being silenced," Bradshaw says.

She also wrote in an email to KPAX:
"I think there are a lot of parents out there who truly and sincerely worry for their children and are uncomfortable with the speed with which gender identity has transformed a generation of children. They fear irreparable harm to their kids. They get to express that. And, there’s fear and worry on the other side that trans kids will be irreparably harmed if we don’t do something. They get to express that. We need to learn to listen and reflect and not be so quick to shut down and demonize the other side."

Missoula County Commissioners Josh Slotnick, Juanita Vero and Dave Strohmaier and Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess expressed support for Zephyr:

"In banning Rep. Zephyr from the House floor, lawmakers have silenced the voice of 11,000 of Missoula County's constituents. We are proud to follow Rep. Zephyr's lead in being courageous and having clarity of purpose in the face of devastating decisions that cause real harm to our constituents. We join her in standing up and fighting for members of our community who will face more difficulty, adversity and harm because of the policies this Legislature has passed. We see you and we support you."

SPECIAL REPORT: Montana House votes to ban transgender Representative from House floor