© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Flags adorn the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Montana, U.S. April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Clark
(Reuters) – Montana’s governor on Friday enacted a Republican-backed ban on gender-affirming medical care for transgender children, days after a transgender lawmaker protesting the bill was barred from the floor of the state legislature, sparking a national furor.
The Republican House majority voted to censure Zooey Zephyr, a Democrat, on Wednesday, excluding her from the House chamber for the rest of the legislative session for saying on April 18 that lawmakers backing the bill would have blood on their hands.
The legislation, Senate Bill 99, passed the House of Representatives three days later, and Republican Governor Greg Gianforte signed it into law on Friday.
Republican politicians have pressed a campaign to restrict special medical treatments prescribed for transgender youth, including hormone treatments and puberty blockers, with dozens of similar bills introduced in legislatures across the U.S.
Opponents of transgender healthcare interventions say their long-term effects are not fully understood and that children and teenagers are too young to make such life-altering choices, even with parental supervision.
Zephyr, a first-term representative from Missoula, declared that denying gender-affirming care to youngsters who feel at odds with their birth sex was “tantamount to torture” and that a ban would lead to more suicides.
Republican House leaders initially reacted to Zephyr’s floor statements by turning off her microphone. The level of acrimony escalated on Monday of this week when Zephyr led a protest by her supporters chanting “Let her speak!” from the visitors gallery, ending in the arrest of seven demonstrators.
The party-line 68-32 vote to formally exclude Zephyr from the House floor, gallery and anteroom on Wednesday prompted LGBTQ activists to call on supporters to join in a 24-hour protest event in Missoula for Friday and Saturday.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday called the Montana Republican House action against Zephyr a “denial of democratic values”.
The censure has also drawn comparison to the Republican expulsion of two Black state representatives in Tennessee who were kicked out three weeks ago for leading a gun control protest on the House floor. The Tennessee lawmakers were promptly reappointed to their seats by their county legislatures and earned a trip to the White House.