Montana Republicans have continued to bar Democratic transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from participating in the debate for the second week, leading to her supporters protests and a halt in the House session. They chanted “Let her speak!” from the gallery before being escorted out, and Zephyr hoisted her microphone into the air in defiance as her supporters interrupted proceedings for almost half an hour in protest of Republicans denying her requests to speak on a proposal that would restrict when children can change the names and pronouns they use in school and require parental consent.
Several supporters were escorted out by law enforcement, and seven were arrested for criminal trespass. The disruption was labeled a “riot” and “insurrection” by Republican leaders, who cut the sound on the video feed. House leadership released a statement condemning the actions of “the violent protesters” in the Capitol, and the conservative Montana Freedom Caucus called for immediate disciplinary action against Zephyr. Zephyr and her supporters say her statements accurately illustrate the stakes of the legislation under discussion, arguing that restricting gender-affirming care endangers transgender youth, who studies suggest are at greater risk of depression and suicide.
The standoff is the latest example of emergent discussions around civility, decorum, and how to discuss political issues many perceive as life and death. The state has passed new restrictions on transgender children in the face of proposals this year that address issues ranging from the healthcare they can access to the sports teams they can play on to the names they can go by.
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