Missoula Democratic Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who is transgender, will not be allowed on the House floor or in the House gallery for the remainder of the legislative session following a 68 to 32 censure vote on Wednesday.
Montana State House Minority Leader Kim Abbott joined Scripps News to talk about Rep. Zephyr's censure, and about recent trans-related bills in the Montana legislature.
"This is an extreme response without precedent," Abbott said of the vote to ban Rep. Zephyr from the floor. "We could not find a precedent for removing a duly elected member of the House of Representatives from the floor."
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Abbott said the Republican effort to expel Rep. Zephyr demanded attention and a response, even amid the rest of the legislature's duties to its constituents.
"We have worked incredibly hard on a variety of issues this session, including affordable housing, childcare, permanent property tax relief, infrastructure for mental health and health care, infrastructure for roads and bridges. Those are all priorities. But something else that's a priority is the basic first principles of democracy and the democratic process and fair representation. And what we saw here was the Republican majority taking away the act of representation in terms of free debate on the floor, for 11,000 Montanans. And we're going to stand up. We have things to do and we have priorities as Montana Democrats. But we have to stand up for first principles of representative democracy. That's what we did today."
"On any given issue that we care about, we know it has to be bipartisan," Abbott said. "We know it has to be a compromise. We're good at that. And I think if you look through what our caucus has advanced, we've advanced issues of affordable housing. We've advanced issues of child care. We've advanced issues of provider rates that help with our infrastructure, around caring for elderly and folks suffering from substance abuse disorders or mental health issues. We have advanced a whole bunch of key priorities with our partners on the Republican side of the aisle. So absolutely there's middle ground. There are some things that we can't bend on. And the basic rights, dignity and humanity of our neighbors … We can't bend on that, and our caucus won't bend on that. "