The Montana House of Representatives canceled the chamber’s floor session on Tuesday after demonstrations at the Capitol interfered with lawmakers’ work.
On Monday, transgender activists stormed the House gallery to protest Republicans’ decision to censure a freshman Democrat over “hate-filled” comments on the floor last week. As Republicans debated legislation barring transgender medical interventions for minors with gender dysphoria, Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the first trans-identified representative in the House, mocked colleagues’ prayers.
“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,” Zephyr said.
House Republicans responded with a censure proposed by the chamber’s Freedom Caucus. Zephyr has been prohibited from engaging in floor debate since the remarks until the Missoula-area representative issues an apology.
“It is up to me to maintain decorum here on the House floor, to protect the dignity and integrity,” said House Speaker Matt Regier last week, according to the Associated Press. “Any representative that I don’t feel can do that will not be recognized.”
As day three of the saga continued Monday, demonstrators in the public gallery chanted “let her speak.” Proceedings on the House floor came to a halt until police in riot gear arrested the disruptors.
Montana lawmakers were unable to reconvene on Tuesday.
“Currently all Representatives in the Montana House are free to participate in debate while following House rules,” said Regier. “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.”
In March, three Tennessee Democrat lawmakers were kicked from committees for leading another transgender demonstration on the statehouse floor over similar legislation. Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were temporarily expelled from the Tennessee House for using a bullhorn amid the disruptions. Both were reinstated by local officials in their home districts.
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