GOP Leaders Sued For Silencing Thousands Of Red-State Voters

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In Montana, Democratic state Rep. Zooey Zephyr and a group of her constituents have filed a lawsuit against the state and multiple individual officials after Republicans there voted to effectively bar Zephyr from the House floor. GOP officials undertook that effort as Zephyr expressed support for the LGBTQ+ community, both in her remarks and with displays of support for protesters.

Zephyr is the first openly transgender member of that legislative body, and under dispute have been new state restrictions on providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors. Some of these GOP-backed limits have evidently specified the restrictions apply to patients with gender dysphoria, though it’s not necessarily experienced by everyone who’s transgender. The continued accessibility of gender-affirming care in other cases, though, like when the services may help patients with their given gender identity or sex assigned at birth, raises substantial questions of equal protection under the law, which is explicitly demanded in the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Justice Department sued over GOP-led bans in Tennessee.

Zephyr’s state lawsuit over the connected issue of her targeting in the legislature alleges violations of the Montana Constitution, including its provisions providing for freedom of speech and equal protection. Zephyr “has been deprived of her ability to participate in committee discussions, to engage in speech and debate on behalf of her constituents, and to lobby her House colleagues for the remainder of this legislative term,” her lawsuit said, as highlighted by Democracy Docket, which is a voting rights organization.

The action taken against Zephyr mirrored recent developments in Tennessee, where legislative Republicans voted to expel two Democratic members of the state House after they supported protests pushing for gun safety measures. Both those Democrats, state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were sent back to power on an interim basis by administrative authorities in their home areas, though it seems special elections will soon be held to formally address the Republican antics. In Florida, GOP Governor Ron DeSantis also booted an elected prosecutor from power in the southern regions of the state after that official, Andrew Warren, expressed opposition to the prospect of bringing a prosecution hinging on an abortion. Warren challenged his removal, which undid the will of local voters, but was unsuccessful, despite scoring a court finding that DeSantis had violated his federal rights to free speech.