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Montana Republicans call for censure of transgender lawmaker amid debate over ban of gender-affirming care for minors

<i>Thom Bridge/Independent Record/AP</i><br/>
Thom Bridge/Independent Record/AP

By Rebekah Riess and Joe Sutton, CNN

A number of Republican lawmakers from the Montana Freedom Caucus are demanding Democratic state Rep. Zooey Zephyr be censured by the state House for “using inappropriate and uncalled-for language” during a floor debate over amendments concerning a bill that bans medical care for transgender minors.

“If you are forcing a trans child to go through puberty when they are trans, that is tantamount to torture, and this body should be ashamed,” Zephyr said during her speech on the amendments on Tuesday. “The only thing I will say is if you vote yes on this bill and yes on these amendments I hope the next time there’s an invocation when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.”

The Montana Freedom Caucus weighed in after Zephyr’s speech, calling for the lawmaker’s censure. “This kind of hateful rhetoric from an elected official is exactly why tragedies such as the Covenant Christian School shooting in Nashville occurred,” the caucus said in a statement Tuesday.

In their call for the immediate censure of Zephyr, the Montana Freedom Caucus misgendered Zephyr, who uses she/her pronouns.

“Our Caucus is calling for the immediate censure of transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr after his threatening and deeply concerning comments on the House floor earlier today,” the group said in a tweet on Tuesday.

“I stand by my accurate description of the devastating consequences of banning essential medical care for transgender youth,” Zephyr said in a response to the censure call on Wednesday. “(A)s long as I am a member of the Montana Legislature, I will never stop fighting for trans people in our state.”

According to Zephyr, on Wednesday evening Montana Speaker of the House Matt Regier, a Republican, said he would refuse to allow Zephyr to partake in debate for the remainder of the legislative session. On Thursday Zephyr, however, punched in to speak on a separate Senate bill which “misdefines sex as binary, and then writes trans people out of 40 sections of Montana code,” she told CNN early Friday morning. The speaker then refused to recognize Zephyr and while the Democratic minority leader opposed the ruling, a rules committee was convened, and the Montana GOP voted to uphold Regier’s ruling.

Zephyr was again not recognized Friday on the House floor after she pressed a button to speak during a bill discussion about adult content on the internet.

CNN has reached out to state House Speaker Matt Regier and Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Kim Abbott for comment.

“I want to be clear: no amount of silencing tactics will deter me from standing up for the rights of the transgender community,” Zephyr said in response to Thursday’s actions, stopping her from speaking on any bill for the remained of the legislative session.

As to what’s next, Zephyr told CNN that her understanding was that “rather than pursuing a formal censure” the House speaker is going to “simply refuse to acknowledge” her for the remainder of the session — denying her to the ability to participate in debate on bills.

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