by • April 28, 2023 • Opinion, Politics, Weekly ColumnComments (0)663

Zooey Zephyr and Montana’s Backsliding on Democracy


The Montana House of Representatives disgraced itself this week by voting to ban transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr from speaking on the House floor. She will have to cast votes remotely until the legislative session ends May 5.

Vindictive House Republicans retaliated against Zephyr because she told the truth. When lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House introduced a bigoted bill that would ban hormone treatments and surgical care for transgender minors, Zephyr correctly said it would put “blood on your hands.”

That’s her opinion and it’s backed by medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. They say that bans on transgender care can lead to serious mental health risks to young people. The legislature is also overstepping its authority by having the state interfere with the rights of patients, doctors and parents to make deeply personal medical decisions.

The Montana Freedom Caucus, a group of 21 conservative lawmakers, accused Zephyr of “attempting to shame the Montana legislative body” by using “hateful rhetoric.”

They should be deeply ashamed. They are letting personal prejudice guide public policy that affects all Montanans. It absolutely was hateful when they arrogantly abused their power to impose their own religious beliefs on all citizens.

Right wing Christian nationalism is eating at the heart of Montana’s democracy. State Senator Keith Regier believes that all laws should be based on Judeo-Christian principles. When asked if there is “a middle ground to be found?” Regier replied, “There probably isn’t a middle, you can’t have both.”

Karla Johnson, a chapter president of the Montana Federation of Republican Women was even more strident. She said, “If you want to live here be a Christian.”

Does that sound like America? It’s what we are used to seeing in Russia or Iran, not the United States.

Montana Republicans are also trying to cheat to rig a U.S. Senate election. They don’t believe that they can defeat Democratic Senator Jon Tester fair and square. So, they are working to change the rules to make it easier for a Republican to defeat him. What is weird about this GOP effort is that the rules would only be changed for this specific Senate race – the one contest that Republicans are afraid of losing. The rest of the races would stay the same.

Does that sound like democracy?

This is what happens when you get an arrogant clique of extremists who think that only their voice matters. They think they are superior and have a divine right to rule.

While speaking on the House floor, Rep. Zephyr said she was offering a defense “of democracy itself.” She’s right – and we recently saw a similar, outrageous attack on democracy by radical, and racist, Republicans in Tennessee.

Across the nation, there are alarming anti-LGBTQ laws being introduced. Missouri passed a hideous bill that would ban transgender healthcare for adults.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has made Florida hostile for LGBTQ people. As a result, Miami Heat basketball legend, Dwyane Wade, who has a 15-year-old trans daughter, Zaya, fled the state to protect his family. That’s real family values, not the contrived rubbish Republicans are peddling as “pro-family”.

Conservatives want us divided so they can conquer. We no longer have the luxury of seeing as isolated, their vicious attacks on transgender people, African Americans, Jews, immigrants and women’s reproductive freedom. It’s part of an authoritarian playbook to oppress minorities, suppress dissent and dismantle democracy.

All freedom-loving people must join forces to reclaim America from Republicans before it’s too late. As the saying goes, united we rise, divided we fall.

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