Law enforcement escorted Zephyr’s supporters from the gallery above the Chamber floor, including several by force. Seven were arrested for trespassing, the sheriff said. They were to be booked and released.
The disruption drew the ire of Republican leaders, who described it as a «riot» and an «insurrection.»
Leaders cut the sound on the video and Zephyr remained on the ground holding her microphone as supporters also chanted “Whose house? Our house!» The sergeant-at-arms asked Zephyr to help calm things down, a request he said she refused.
Zephyr did not return the floor after lawmakers met again. He told The Associated Press that he was heading to the county jail with the protesters who were arrested. She tweeted that she went there to show «support for those who were arrested defending democracy.»
Supporters of the ban viewed Zephyr’s admonishment as personal and unprecedented, but most have refrained from commenting publicly.
The House leadership declined to comment to reporters on Monday, but issued a statement saying they «condemn the violence and will always uphold civil debate and respect for our governance processes.»
“Today’s riot by far-left agitators damages our discourse and endangers lawmakers and staff. His actions did not represent Montana’s values,» House Speaker Matt Regier, Speaker Pro Tempore Rhonda Knudsen and Majority Leader Sue Vinton said in the statement.
The conservative Montana Freedom Caucus, which called for the censorship of Zephyr following his comments last week, issued a statement condemning the actions of «violent protesters» on Capitol Hill. He said a small minority of people interrupted the business of the legislature, showing «why we must enforce the rules of decorum when we engage in public debate.»
“Zephyr encouraged these actions by standing in the middle of the floor encouraging an insurrection after all members were told to move to the sides,” and people in the gallery were told to leave. The caucus, which includes 21 of the legislature’s 102 Republican lawmakers, called for immediate disciplinary action against Zephyr.
Zephyr and her supporters say her statements accurately illustrate what is at stake in the legislation under discussion, arguing that restricting gender-affirming care endangers transgender youth, who studies suggest are at higher risk. of depression and suicide.
Earlier in the day, Zephyr spoke from the steps of the Capitol, telling supporters that she planned to continue speaking out forcefully against legislation that members of the transgender community, including herself, consider to be matters of life and death.
“I was sent here to speak on behalf of my constituents and to speak on behalf of my community. It’s the promise I made when I was elected, and it’s a promise I will continue to keep every day,» Zephyr said.
It also connected the transgender community’s fight against gender-affirming care bans with the political struggles that energize other marginalized groups across the United States.
“When communities that see the repercussions of these bills have the audacity to stand up and say, ‘This legislation gets us killed,’ those in power are not content to pass these hateful and damaging bills. «, said. “What they are demanding is silence. We will not be complicit in our eradication,” he said.
Those gathered carried signs of support, cheered and waved Pride flags.
After the rally, a 21-year-old broke down in tears when he told Zephyr about his fears about coming out as transgender in his small town in southwestern Montana. Others hugged the legislator, thanked her for fighting and apologized for having to.
Katy Spence, a voter who drove from Missoula, said the standoff was about censoring ideas, not decorum.
“She has been silenced because she spoke the truth about what these anti-trans bills are doing in Montana, especially for trans youth,” Spence said.
The standoff is the latest example of emerging discussions about civility, propriety and how to discuss political issues that many perceive as life and death.
Zephyr was silenced and deliberately misconstrued by some Republican lawmakers in response to his impeachment last week. Republican leaders demanded an apology and said they will not allow any lawmaker to speak who they do not trust to maintain decorum, regardless of party or gender. Misgendering is using pronouns that do not match a person’s gender identity.
Months after Zephyr became the first openly transgender woman elected to the Montana legislaturethe state joined a long list of legislatures pass new restrictions for transgender children. This year’s proposals have tackled topics ranging from what health care they can access to which sports teams they can play for and the names they can go by.
Although the proceedings have been heated in more than a dozen state chambers, Republican efforts to prevent Zephyr from speaking have brought new attention to such legislative battles.
Lawmakers last week approved a ban on gender-affirming care and Gianforte has indicated that it will sign.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal have vowed to challenge it in court before it takes effect in October.