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Dulce et Decorum est

Montana House GOP bars transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr for remainder of session

The Republican-led Montana House voted Wednesday to bar Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) from the House floor for the rest of the legislative session. The extraordinary move — it has been nearly half a century since Montana lawmakers took such a disciplinary action, The Associated Press reports — stems from comments Zephyr, a transgender lawmaker representing Missoula, made about a bill to ban gender-affirming hormone treatment or surgery for minors. Republicans said her remarks violated "decorum" rules.

Zephyr will be allowed to vote remotely and participate in committee meetings for the rest of the session, which ends in May. The vote to block her from the House floor was 68 to 32, along party lines. 

Zephyr told her colleagues during an April 18 session they would have "blood on your hands" if they blocked transgender youth from receiving transitional care, saying she has friends who committed suicide over such restrictions. Republicans responded by refusing to let her speak, leading to a protest in the House gallery Monday. State police cleared the gallery and arrested seven people after protesters started chanting "Let her speak!" Republicans accused Zephyr of encouraging the protest.

"Freedom in this body involves obedience to all the rules of this body, including the rules of decorum," House Majority Leader Sue Vinton (R) said. "The only person who is silencing Rep. Zephyr is Rep. Zephyr," said House Speaker Matt Regier (R), who had refused to recognize her requests to speak since the April 18 session. (Regier's family "wields great influence over both chambers," The New York Times notes: His father, Keith, is chairman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee and his sister, Amy, chairs the House Judiciary Committee.)

Zephyr said she thinks Republicans opted not to expel her because they know "my community and the Democratic Party in Missoula would send me back here in a heartbeat," as happened in Tennessee after Republicans expelled two House Democrats.

The Montana ban on gender-affirming care now awaits the signature of Gov. Greg Gianforte (R). It will be the 12th such law enacted this year. "Republican legislators have characterized transition care as harmful and experimental, arguing that young people should not be allowed to begin medically transitioning before they become adults," if then, the Times reports. "But major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support this care and say that bans pose serious mental health risks to young people, infringing not only on their rights but also on the rights of doctors and parents."