A transgender member of the Montana House of Representatives is claiming to have been unfairly silenced by fellow legislators, drumming up controversy between those who support the lawmaker’s claim and those who disagree with it.

In disciplinary action decided by a 68-32 party-line vote, the Montana House banned Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-Missoula) from entering its chamber for the remainder of the current legislative session.

Zephyr, a 34-year-old self-described “progressive, bisexual trans woman,” first ran for office in 2022 and won election to the state house in the heavily-liberal district with nearly 80% of the vote.

In recent times, the Montana state legislature has debated and moved a bill that would ban minors and children from attending drag shows as well as a bill that would ban administering transgender hormones or performing sex-altering surgeries on minors.

Zephyr, who was born a biological male and now identifies as a transgender female, blasted colleagues that supported these initiatives, particularly the ban on hormones and surgeries.

“In the governor’s letter, he said ‘Montanans who struggle with their gender identity deserve love, compassion and respect.’ That’s not what trans Montanans need from you,” Zephyr said on the House floor. “We need access to the medical care that saves our lives.”

Zephyr continued, “If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture, and this body should be ashamed.”

Montana House Majority Leader Sue Vinton (R-Billings) chided Zephyr for these remarks: “I speak on behalf of our caucus. We will not be shamed by anybody in this chamber. We are better than that.”

Vinton’s rebuke drew a strong reaction from Zephyr, who replied, “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.”

After Zephyr’s remarks on the Montana House floor, Speaker Matt Regier (R-Kalispell) refused to recognize Zephyr to speak on matters before the body, including a debate on a bill that codified the definition of male and female into state law.

After inquiries by Democrat leaders as to why Zephyr was not being recognized, Regier highlighted his authority as speaker under the House rules to determine who is allowed to participate in debate.

“It is up to me to maintain decorum here on the House floor, to protect the dignity and integrity, and any representative I don’t feel can do that will not be recognized,” Regier replied, per the Montana Free Press.

Tweeting an image of a representative’s desk and microphone, Zephyr commented, “The Republican Party of Montana is refusing to allow me — a transgender Representative — to speak on any bill. This is fundamentally undemocratic. My light is on, and I am ready to speak on behalf of the constituents who elected me to do so.”

The feud prompted protesters to descend on the Montana Capitol and caused disruption to the Montana House’s business in the critical waning days of the legislative session.

As the disruption reached its peak, the Montana House closed down its gallery to prevent disruptions from protesters and voted to prevent Zephyr from entering its chamber for the final weeks of the legislative session, though it still allowed the Missoula lawmaker to vote remotely.

After the disciplinary action was taken, Zephyr released a statement calling it “a disturbing affront to democracy.”

“When I continued to not be recognized [to speak], Montanans gathered to support my right to speak on behalf of my constituents,” Zephyr wrote. “When the speaker refused to acknowledge me, they raised their voice in protest.”

“As he attempted to gavel them down, what he was really doing was driving a nail into the coffin of democracy,” Zephyr concluded.

Afterward the disciplinary vote, Speaker Regier released a brief statement: “Currently all Representatives in the Montana House are free to participate in 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. All 100 Representatives will be treated the same,” Regier said.

Former Missoula city councilman and columnist Jesse Ramos commented on the ordeal, tweeting, “To be a famous politician in America in 2023 you don’t have to sponsor any good legislation, or try to help your constituents. You just have to make a scene and be a democrat and the media will knight you!”