Montana House cancels session after rally for trans lawmaker


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“Currently, all representatives are free to participate in House debates while following the House rules,” Regier told reporters. “The choice to not follow the 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.”

Under Regier’s leadership, the House has not allowed Zephyr to speak since last week when she said that those who voted to ban gender-affirming care for young people would have “blood on their hands.” He and other Republicans said the remark was far outside the boundaries of appropriate civil discourse and demanded she apologize before being allowed to participate in legislative discussions.

Zephyr’s remarks, and the Republican response, set off a chain of events that culminated in a rally outside the Capitol at noon Monday and seven arrests later that afternoon when protesters interrupted House proceedings after Zephyr was denied the right to speak on a bill. The scene at the Statehouse galvanized both those demanding she be allowed to speak and those saying her actions constitute an unacceptable attack on civil discourse.

Much like developments in the Tennessee Statehouse weeks ago — where two lawmakers were expelled after participating in a post-school shooting gun control protest that interrupted proceedings — Zephyr’s punishment has ignited a firestorm of debate about governance and democracy in politically polarizing times.

It has showcased the growing power of the Montana Freedom Caucus, a group of right-wing lawmakers that has spearheaded the charge to discipline Zephyr. The caucus re-upped its demands and rhetoric Monday. In a statement they said that Zephyr’s decision to hoist a microphone toward the gallery’s protesters amounted to “encouraging an insurrection.”

It’s unclear if Regier and House leaders will follow the Freedom Caucus’s demand. Republican Rep. Casey Knudsen, the chair of the House Rules committee, said Monday’s cancellation gave leadership time to respond to Monday’s events. House Democratic Leader Kim Abbott said she saw leadership’s decision to cancel as giving lawmakers “some time to regroup.”

The House is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday afternoon, the chamber’s Republicans announced Tuesday.

Although several protesters resisted law enforcement officers trying to arrest them on Monday, Abbott pushed back at characterizing the activity as violent. She acknowledged it was disruptive, but called the demonstration peaceful. She said public protests were a predictable response to a lawmaker representing more than 10,000 constituents not being allowed to speak and questioned bringing in officers in riot gear to handle the chanting protesters.

“It was chanting, but it absolutely was not violent,” she said. “Sometimes extreme measures have a response like this.”

There were no reports of damage to the building and lawmakers were not threatened.

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