Biden signs marriage protection act while Montana’s Zephyr looks on

Zephyr will take a seat in the Montana House in January as the first openly transgender person to serve

By: and - December 14, 2022 4:29 pm

People who have been involved in lawsuits fighting for marriage equality look on as U.S. President Joe Biden speaks before signing the Respect for Marriage Act on the South Lawn of the White House Dec. 13, 2022 in Washington, D.C. The Respect for Marriage Act will codify same-sex and interracial marriages. (Photo by Drew Angerer | Getty Images)

Montana Representative-elect Zooey Zephyr didn’t just make history by becoming the first openly transgender woman to be elected to the Montana Legislature, she watched history on Tuesday in the nation’s capitol.

Zephyr, who won election from a district in Missoula, attended Tuesday’s “Respect For Marriage Act” bill signing in Washington D.C., by U.S. President Joe Biden. 

“Getting to be on the South Lawn of the White House, alongside all the other politicians and activists and organization folks, who are in the fight for equality was such a beautiful and joyous occasion,” Zephyr told the Daily Montanan on Tuesday. 

She said despite the rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and attacks around the country, that “the arc of LGBTQ rights has been moving forward broadly, and this moment is a shining reminder of that.”

She said that this moment was made possible by those who fought for LGBTQ+ rights before her, and said her political awareness came from the activism surrounding the AIDS epidemic and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” 

“It gives me hope that the fights we’re in now, in 10 or 15 years, we will be at a shining moment for trans people as well.” 

Both Republicans in Montana’s Congressional delegation, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale, voted against the legislation as it passed through respective chambers. 

“Across political ideologies in our communities, LGBTQ people are supported and loved. We are friends. We are families. We are parents, and our communities often recognize this and accept us,” she said. “And it is high time that our political leaders do the same.”

Zephyr said that she would one day like to get married herself.

“I’m a romantic, I want to find the person to spend my life with and be able to have that love celebrated,” Zephyr said. “And also have the protections that come with it, the ability to have a family with the person I love, to be able to know that if something happens to my partner, I will be able to care for our kids.

“Standing on the White House lawn that was one of the things on my mind and one of the things that had me tearing up,” she said. “They can’t take this away. I’ll be able to have this in the future. I’ll be able to get married to the person I love.”

She attended the event with her girlfriend, activist Erin Reed. 

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.

Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.