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Montana House to consider disciplinary action against Zephyr after protest

Montana House Chamber Empty
Regier Protest Statement
Posted at 6:15 PM, Apr 25, 2023

HELENA - The Montana House on Wednesday is set to consider possible disciplinary action against one of its members, after Monday's disruptive protest in the chamber.

House leadership posted an announcement on the Legislature's website, saying that, at 1 p.m., they will discuss a motion on Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, and whether her conduct during the protest "violated the rules, collective rights, safety, dignity, integrity, or decorum of the House of Representatives, and if so, whether to impose disciplinary consequences for those actions."

"To maintain decorum and ensure safety, the galleries in the House will be closed," the statement continued.

On Monday, demonstrators shouted and chanted from the gallery to protest House Speaker Rep. Matt Regier’s decision not to recognize Zephyr to speak on the floor.

Zephyr, a transgender woman, has not been allowed to speak on the floor since last week. Republicans objected after she said lawmakers who voted for Senate Bill 99 — a ban on gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender youth — should be ashamed and would have “blood on your hands.”

Since then, Regier, R-Kalispell, has said he has concerns that Zephyr wouldn’t maintain decorum if he called on her, and he has refused to recognize her on the floor. He has pointed to rules that give the speaker the final say on questions of recognition. Regier told MTN Zephyr would be allowed to speak again once she regained "trust" and apologized.

House Minority Leader Rep. Kim Abbott released a statement on the announcement from leadership.

"The Republicans are doubling down on their agenda of running roughshod over Montanans' rights — to free expression, to peaceful protest, to equal justice under the law," she said. "Montana Democrats will hold them accountable for every step they take in escalating their anti-democratic agenda."

Zephyr also responded on Twitter, saying "I will do as I have always done — rise on behalf of my constituents, in defense of my community, & for democracy itself."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an update to an earlier story. The original post is available below.


The Montana House chamber was quiet Tuesday afternoon. House leaders canceled a scheduled floor session, a day after a disruptive protest interrupted debates in the chamber. It’s the latest in the ongoing tensions over the Republican House speaker’s decision not to recognize a Democratic representative to speak on the floor.

Demonstrators shouted and chanted in the House gallery Monday, after Speaker Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, again declined to call on Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, during a floor debate. After Regier stopped the session and ordered the gallery cleared, leaders eventually called in law enforcement. Seven people were arrested for criminal trespass after refusing to leave – six from Missoula and one from Great Falls, ranging in age from 22 to 43.

Zephyr, a transgender woman, has not been allowed to speak on the floor since last week. Republicans objected after she said lawmakers who voted for Senate Bill 99 – a ban on gender-affirming medical procedures for transgender youth – should be ashamed and would have “blood on your hands.”

Since then, House Speaker Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, has said he has concerns that Zephyr wouldn’t maintain decorum if he called on her, and he refused to recognize her on the floor. He has pointed to rules that give the speaker the final say on questions of recognition. Regier told MTN Zephyr would be allowed to speak again once she regained "trust" and apologized.

Monday saw a full day of protests at the Capitol, including a rally by Zephyr’s supporters, who said Regier was effectively “silencing” her and depriving the people she represents of a voice in the House. After he again declined to recognize her during Monday’s floor session, demonstrators in the gallery began chanting “Let her speak!” Throughout the protest, Zephyr remained at her desk on the House floor, holding her microphone over her head.

In a statement released Monday evening, Republican leaders called the events a “riot by far-left agitators.”

On Tuesday morning, Regier spoke to reporters for just over a minute, with Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Rhonda Knudsen, R-Culbertson, and House Majority Leader Rep. Sue Vinton, R-Billings, behind him. He called the incident a “dark day for the state of Montana,” and he criticized media coverage.

“The entire story was not told,” he said. “Headlines that have happened over the last week stating that the Montana House leadership or GOP has silenced anyone is false. Currently, all representatives are free to participate in House debate while following the House rules. The choice to not follow House rules is one that Rep. Zephyr has made. The only person silencing Rep. Zephyr is Rep. Zephyr.”

“The Montana House will not be bullied,” Regier added.

Regier left without taking questions from reporters.

House Minority Leader Rep. Kim Abbott, D-Helena, said the protest was not violent and disagreed with describing it as a “riot.” She doesn’t believe the rules have been enforced consistently throughout the session, and she called the speaker’s actions extreme.

“I think Montanans know what's fair and what's not fair,” said Abbott. “And what we've seen is a duly elected public official not being recognized on the floor to engage in free debate that disenfranchises her community, her constituents. The fact that this is the first trans woman who's been elected to the body and she's been silenced on issues directly impacting the trans community is also deeply disturbing to Montana Democrats.”

Abbott said she did expect there to be a floor session on Wednesday, and for this issue to be addressed at that time, but she didn’t know what form that may take. She said after talking to Regier Tuesday, she believed he was considering several different options for responses.

MTN did speak to Zephyr Tuesday. She again said it’s Regier’s decision not to let her speak, and she also believed the rules haven’t been enforced the same for everyone.