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Seven supporters of trans lawmaker arrested in Montana House: “Let her speak!”

Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D)
Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) Photo: Screenshot Twitter

In the latest chapter of trans state Rep. Zooey Zephyr’s fight against the far-right Republican legislature in Montana, the 34-year-old Democrat was found standing alone in the middle of the House floor with her microphone silenced and raised above her head as dozens of protesters in the public galleries shouted their support.

As Zephyr’s colleagues watched from the sidelines, where officials had asked them to gather, police in riot gear marched past the first-term representative in a show of force on their way to arresting seven protesters among the crowd, chanting in unison, “Let her speak!” and “Whose House? Our House!”

Republican leaders called the protest a “riot” and an “insurrection.”

Earlier in the day, a large crowd had gathered outside the state capital in support of Zephyr, who warned lawmakers last Tuesday that they would “have blood on their hands” if they passed pending legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors in the state.

That statement earned a demand from the legislature’s far-right Montana Freedom Caucus to censure Zephyr. Republican House Speaker Matt Regier subsequently banned her from speaking on bills in the House until she apologized.

Zephyr hasn’t yielded.

“I will not apologize for speaking with clarity and precision about the harm these bills cause. Montana Republicans say they want an apology, but what they really want is silence as they take away the rights of trans and queer Montanans.”

In the same debate last Tuesday before the final vote on S.B. 99, the Provide for a Youth Health Protection Act, Zephyr told lawmakers that provisions in the bill that banned gender-affirming care for minors were “tantamount to torture.”

“If you disallow the use of the medical care that is accepted by every major medical association,” Zephyr said, “the only therapy left is either meaningless, or conversion therapy, which is torture.”

Following the arrests in the state house, Republican leadership released a statement saying they “condemn violence and will always stand for civil debate and respect for our processes of government.”

“Today’s riot by far-left agitators damages our discourse and endangered legislators and staff. Their actions did not represent Montana values,” Regier, Speaker pro tempore Rhonda Knudsen (R), and Majority Leader Sue Vinton (R) said in the statement.

As debate resumed, Zephyr chose to stand with protesters as they were booked at the county jail rather than sit in silence on the House floor.

“I raised my mic and stood in solidarity with them,” Zephyr said later. “I am devoted to those who rise in defense of democracy.”

Outside the state house chamber, Zephyr reiterated her commitment to speak out.

“When someone stands up and calls out their bills for the harm they cause, for the deaths they cause, they want silence. And we will not be complicit in our eradication.”

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