Montana Republicans voted to ban a Democratic transgender lawmaker from the House of Representatives floor for the remainder of the legislative session.
The drastic measure was taken against Zooey Zephyr, the first trans person elected to the state legislature in Montana history, after she spoke out against a bill that would see gender-affirming care for trans youth banned.
The Democratic lawmaker told those who voted yes on the law and its amendments that she hopes they see the “blood on your hands” and was ultimately barred from participating in deliberations on the House floor.
Zephyr was denied the right to debate for more than a week, with the vote against her coming after riot police were sent to the House viewing gallery on 24 April when protesters rallied against the ongoing silencing of the politician.
The Republican-controlled chamber passed the vote by 68 to 32, meaning Zephyr will still be able to vote, albeit remotely, though will be unable to participate in debates on the floor for the rest of the legislative session, which concludes on 5 May.
“My community is facing bills that get us killed”
During the debate about the vote, she said that she wasn’t sorry for speaking out against the legislation.
“When I rose up and said there is blood on your hands, I was not being hyperbolic,” she explained during remarks on the floor on 26 April. “I was speaking to the real consequences of the votes that we as legislators take in this body. When the Speaker asks me to apologise, on behalf of decorum, what he’s really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed.”
The bill Zephyr was opposing has been sent to the desk of Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has indicated he will sign it into law.
In the current session, Republicans in Montana are considering bills that would restrict drag shows, allow for the deadnaming and misgendering of young trans people and allow medical providers to deny people care for personal reasons, among an array of other things.
Majority of Republicans believe attacks on LGBTQ+ rights are excessive
US voters across the political spectrum, including Republicans, believe anti-LGBTQ+ legislation to be “excessive, political theatre” designed to increase division, according to findings from research recently conducted by Data for Progress.
The poll found that “72% of Democrats, 65% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans think that there is ‘too much legislation’ aimed at limiting the rights of transgender and gay people in America.”
With more than 400 separate bills already making their way through various state legislatures this year alone, it was also found that a majority of voters in the US believe the Republican Party is using LGBTQ+ rights as a “wedge issue” to gain political advantage and/or sow division.
“Political leaders should not hesitate to call out Republicans on their manipulative political tactics,” said Data for Progress pollsters Erin Thomas, Grace Adcox and Lew Blank in a blog post. “Furthermore, they should use their platform to make the country more aware of queer people and queer issues.”
They added that the Democratic Party “should be doing more to advocate for queer and trans people” as bills continue to target their rights.
This was reflected in the poll, as 56% of likely Democratic voters said the Party should be doing more, while 63% of Independent or third-party voters agreed.
Republican narratives surrounding trans identities also appear to be unpopular among potential voters, as 57% agree “that transgender identities occur naturally when free societies permit individuals to identify outside of societal norms, whereas only 33 percent view transgender identities as a ‘woke’ invention.”