By Eric Bradner, CNN
The Republican-dominated Montana House of Representatives voted Wednesday ban Rep. Zooey Zephyrwho had said Republican lawmakers would have “blood” on their hands for passing bills restricting the rights of transgender people and rallied protesters Monday after President Matt Regier blocked her from being recognized to speak, from the chamber of the House for the remainder of this year’s legislative session.
Under the disciplinary measure passed Wednesday by a vote of 68-32, Zephyr, the 34-year-old Missoula Democrat who last year became the first openly transgender woman elected to the Montana legislature, will be able to keep her seat and cast votes. remote form. But she will not be able to participate in the debates. The session is scheduled to end next week.
The move by Montana Republicans comes just weeks after two Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee were ousted for their protests on the House floor demanding measures to address gun violence after a mass shooting at a Nashville school. It is the latest example of a Republican-dominated state legislature restricting who can be heard, and what can be said, over political debates that the state’s minority Democrats see as matters of life and death.
Montana House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, the Republican who sponsored the resolution, told the House floor Wednesday that Zephyr had “encouraged the continued disruption of this body, putting lawmakers , staff, and even our pages at risk of harm.”
“Freedom in this body implies obedience to all the rules of this body, including the rules of decorum,” he said.
Zephyr, who was given five minutes to address the chamber before the vote, said Republicans who hold large majorities in the Montana House and Senate were using decorum as a “tool of oppression” and He said her restrictions on her speech and on the protesters who supported her were a “nail in the coffin of democracy.”
But, he added, “democracy cannot be killed so easily.”
Regier has refused to allow Zephyr to speak on the House floor since last week.
The standoff began when, in a floor speech opposing a measure that would ban gender-affirming care for minors, Zephyr said Republicans who backed that proposal would have “blood on their hands.” Studies have consistently found alarmingly high rates of suicide among transgender teens.
Regier, backed by a large Republican majority, ruled that Zephyr’s comments violated House rules. Until Wednesday’s debate over the resolution to discipline Zephyr, he had refused to acknowledge her to speak of her until she apologized.
Pro-Zephyr activists packed the gallery of the Montana House on Monday. When Zephyr stood up and held the microphone to her in an attempt to be recognized, the crowd erupted in chants of “let her talk!” Seven protesters were arrested.
Republican leaders canceled Tuesday’s scheduled House session and announced Tuesday night they would consider “disciplinary action” against Zephyr on Wednesday for his role in Monday’s protests.
Zephyr defended his actions on Wednesday, describing the protests as peaceful.
“This was a bill that was one of many aimed at the LGBTQ community in Montana. This legislature has systematically attacked that community. We have seen bills that focus on our art forms, our books, our history and our health care,” Zephyr said. “And I stood up for my community that day, speaking about the damage these bills bring that I have firsthand experience of. I have friends who have taken their lives because of these bills.”
She said she heard from a family whose transgender teen attempted suicide while watching a legislative committee debate one of those bills.
“When I got up and said there’s blood on your hands, I wasn’t being hyperbolic. It was talking about the real consequences of the votes that we legislators take in this body,” he said.
“And when the speaker asks me to apologize in the name of propriety, what he’s really asking me to do is keep quiet when my community faces bills that get us killed. He is asking me to be complicit in this legislature’s eradication of our community, and I refuse to do so and always will refuse to do so.”
Regier allowed three members from each party to debate the motion before voting on Wednesday.
Rep. David Bedey, a Republican, said Zephyr should have left the House floor or helped try to calm the crowd of protesters on Monday.
“Lively debate and the free expression of ideas cannot flourish in an atmosphere of turmoil and instability,” Bedey said. “What is at stake is the expectation that any member of this body, whoever they may be, has a duty to strive to uphold decorum so that the work of the people, the work of all Montanans, can be accomplished.” .
House Minority Leader Kim Abbott, the ranking Democrat, said she had told Regier “there are other paths we could take.”
“Just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s the right choice,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional reports.
The CNN Wire
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