Colorado lawmakers sign letter in support of Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr after she was banned from the state House floor

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Silenced Transgender Lawmaker
State Rep. Zooey Zephyr walks into the State Capitol on her first day of remote voting, Thursday, April 27, 2023 in Helena, Mont. Zephyr was barred from participating on the House floor as Republican leaders voted Wednesday to silence her for the rest of 2023 session after she protested GOP leaders’ decision earlier in the week to silence her. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)

Colorado lawmakers are criticizing their colleagues in Montana for banning a transgender lawmaker from doing her work.

In a letter signed by nearly two-thirds of Colorado’s General Assembly, the lawmakers express their “extreme dismay” over the decision to ban Missoula-area state Rep. Zooey Zephyr from the Montana House floor for her comments opposing a bill to ban gender-affirming care for minors.

“We rise in support of a lawmaker who is doing what she has been charged to do: Stand up and speak out on behalf of constituents on issues directly impacting them,” the letter states. “Your actions strike at the heart of our democracy and the rights of Montanans to have their voices heard.“

The letter also accuses Montana’s lawmakers of attempting “to erase trans people.”

The Colorado letter was led by Democratic state Rep. Brianna Titone, the state’s first transgender lawmaker. It was signed by the leaders of both legislative chambers, as well as more than 70 state lawmakers and local officials. Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Treasurer Dave Young also signed on. 

While the vast majority of signers are Democrats, Republican state Reps. Ron Weinberg from Loveland and Rick Taggart from Grand Junction also added their names.

The conflict in Montana started when Zephyr, a first-term Montana Democratic state representative, was barred from speaking in floor debates after she warned her colleagues if they passed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, there would be “blood on your hands.”

Multiple medical studies have found that transgender youth are at higher risk of suicide than their cisgender peers, and that receiving gender-affirming care can reduce that risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “developmentally appropriate” gender-affirming care for trans youth.

A new Colorado law, cosponsored by Titone, protects families and adults who come to Colorado for gender-affirming care.

When Zephyr attempted to speak on the floor several days after her colleagues barred her from doing so, Republican leaders had her removed from the chamber and deactivated her Capitol badge, according to a lawsuit Zephyr has filed asking to have her access reinstated. She was allowed to vote remotely during the remaining few days of Montana’s legislative session.

Colorado has a range of options legislative leaders can take when they believe a member has crossed the line, but most incidents are settled informally and no lawmaker has been banned from participating in floor work in recent years. 

The only lawmaker to be expelled from the Colorado legislature in the past century was Democrat Steve Lebsock in 2018, who was removed by a bipartisan vote over accusations that he had sexually harassed and threatened fellow lawmakers.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misspelled Rep. Titone's name. It has been corrected.