As Trans Rep Is Silenced in Montana, Chaos Erupts

Law enforcement clears House gallery, arrest 7 supporters of Rep. Zooey Zephyr
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2023 7:55 AM CDT
As Trans Rep Is Silenced in Montana, Chaos Erupts
Law enforcement forcibly clears the Montana House of Representatives gallery during a protest after the speaker of the House refused again to acknowledge Rep. Zooey Zephyr, D-Missoula, on Monday, April 24, 2023, in the State Capitol, in Helena, Mont.   (Thom Bridge/Independent Record via AP)

The decision by Republican leadership to silence a transgender lawmaker in Montana who urged colleagues to reject amendments to a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors has resulted in chaos in the state Capitol. Seven people were arrested Monday for interrupting proceedings to support Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who'd argued that those who voted yes on the legislation "should be ashamed" and see "blood on your hands," per the Washington Post. The Montana Freedom Caucus called for Zephyr to be censured, referring to the lawmaker with the pronoun "his." The bloc of 21 Republicans said Zephyr was trying to shame lawmakers with "inappropriate and uncalled-for language." Indeed, it said "this kind of hateful rhetoric from an elected official is exactly why tragedies such as the Covenant Christian School shooting in Nashville occurred."

The Missoula Democrat wasn't formally censured, but Republican House leaders "declined to recognize her on the floor for three days, during which her microphone was disabled," per the Post. House Speaker Matt Regier told KRTV that Zephyr would only be allowed to speak after an apology. A Monday vote upheld his decision not to recognize her as she attempted to speak on legislation that would restrict children from changing names or pronouns used at school without parental consent, leading to shouts of "Let her speak" inside the gallery, per the Post. Authorities say seven protesters were arrested on charges of misdemeanor criminal trespassing. Zephyr, who'd held her microphone in the air during the chants, left the Capitol to follow the protesters to a detention center.

She said she was supporting those who were "standing on behalf of democracy" against "legislation that gets trans people killed," per the Helena Independent Record. Earlier Monday, Zephyr had delivered a petition to the speaker's office calling for her to be recognized. It was signed by more than 3,000 people, per KRTV. In a statement, however, Regier and Republican Reps. Rhonda Knudsen and Sue Vinton said the actions of the protesters "did not represent Montana values." This "riot by far-left agitators damages our discourse and endangered legislators and staff," the statement said, reiterating the leadership's "commitment to decorum, safety, and order." The Montana Freedom Caucus, meanwhile, demanded Zephyr face "immediate disciplinary action" for having stood "in the middle of the floor encouraging an insurrection," per the AP. (Read more Montana stories.)

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