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Montana House cancels session amid standoff with transgender lawmakers

Helena, Monte. — Against criticism that they had silenced Montana’s only transgender lawmaker, Republican leaders abruptly canceled a session of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, a day after violent protests led to arrests in the House.

in a brief press conference, House Speaker Matt Regier blamed lawmaker Rep. Zooey Zephyr for the impasse, saying she wasn’t following House rules. “The only people who have silenced the Zephyr reps are the Zephyr reps,” he said.

On Tuesday night, Ms. Zephyr shared What appears to be a letter from the Speaker of the House She will announce a motion Wednesday afternoon to determine “whether to impose disciplinary action for her conduct,” the letter said.

“I was told that at the floor meeting tomorrow, a motion would be made to either reprimand me or fire me. I was also told that I would have the opportunity to speak,” said Ms Zephyr, who has not been allowed to do so in recent days Do.

The increasingly tense confrontation began last Tuesday, when Ms. Zephyr, the first-term Democrat representing Missoula, delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor, telling colleagues that voting to ban transitional care for minors would make “you With blood on their hands.”

Conservative lawmakers denounced her “hate speech” and Mr Regier said he would not allow her to speak in the House until she apologized.

Ms. Zephyr called the Republicans’ actions anti-democratic and remained defiant in an interview Tuesday. “I will do everything in my power to make sure the voices of the Montanans who elected me are heard,” she said. “It’s up to the speaker if he wants to recognize me as a duly-elected representative.”

The clash sparked protests on the steps of the Capitol on Monday, as supporters of Ms Zephyr packed the House gallery, chanting: “Let her speak!” Enter with batons and masks. Seven people were arrested.

“I dedicate myself to those who rose to defend democracy,” Ms Zeffer said in a statement. tweet After Monday’s arrest, Republican leaders issued a statement calling the House’s action a “riot by far-left demagogues.”

Montana is one of several states where Republican lawmakers have sought to ban hormone therapy and surgery on transgender minors this year. About 1.3 million American adults and 300,000 children identify as transgender, and efforts to limit so-called gender-affirming care have thrust them into one of the nation’s fiercest political battles.

Republican lawmakers have described transition care as harmful and experimental, saying children and teens are not mature enough to make permanent decisions. But major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, support the care and say the ban poses serious mental health risks to young people and violates not only their rights, but also those of doctors and parents.

This year, 11 states passed laws banning such care for young people. Previously, only three state legislatures had enacted full or partial bans. The barrage of state legislation is part of a long-running campaign by conservative groups across the country to see transgender rights as an issue they can tap into the anger of some voters and raise money.

Few of these legislatures have had to discuss these laws with transgender legislators as members. That may change, if slowly: Over the last few years, a growing number of LGBTQ people have been running for office and winning elections. The number of openly transgender and nonbinary people elected to public office increased to at least 70 this year, from 25 in 2019, according to the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which supports those candidates.

Virginia Rep. Danica Roem, who in 2018 became the country’s first openly transgender state legislator, said her state has introduced more bills on transgender issues this year than she has in office. Unmatched by any bill ever seen. But she added that she is now serving a third term — and has seen transgender candidates win elections in other states as well.

Ms. Zephyr, 34, said she is running for office on a platform that includes affordable housing, health care, human rights and climate justice. But it was her clashes with Republican lawmakers over transgender issues that quickly boosted her profile.

“When you deliberately silence representatives of any political party,” said Virginia lawmaker Ms. Rohm, “especially those who are passionate about issues that directly affect them and the communities they come from — you inevitably end up And in doing so, you raise their profile.”

She mentioned two Democrats who were fired by their Republican colleagues in Tennessee for leading gun control protests in the House. Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson, both black, have since been reinstated — but their expulsions have rattled state politics and fueled debates about race and representation debate.

Republicans in Montana have denied they are trying to silence Ms. Zephyr and have described her criticism of their support for a ban on transitional care for minors as “hate speech” that could lead to violence. The Montana Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers, called for her to be censured in a letter last week that misleadingly described Zephyr’s use of male pronouns.

The Montana legislation that Ms. Zephyr opposes has majority support in both the House and Senate. It is expected to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who called gender-affirming care a misleading term and compared it to “Orwellian Newspeak.”

Lawmakers in Montana are also considering other legislation related to transgender issues, including a bill that would define gender as binary in the state code based on whether a person produces eggs or sperm, and another The bill would limit when students can change the names and pronouns they use in school.

Ms Zephyr was not recognized during debate on either bill.

Francesca Paris, Ernesto Londoño and Remy Toumin Contribution report.

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