Montana: House GOP censures trans lawmaker for speaking against anti-trans bills – National & International News – WED 26Apr2023



Montana GOP censures trans lawmaker for speaking against anti-trans bills.

After Thomas, more SCOTUS corruption with Gorsuch land sale.

China’s Xi talks with Zelensky, seeking “political settlement” with Russia.




Montana: House GOP censures trans lawmaker for speaking against anti-trans bills

In a situation with many parallels to the recent story of the “Tennessee Three”, the Republican supermajority in the Montana House voted today to censure Rep. Zooey Zephyr of Missoula. The terms of punishment bar Zephyr from speaking on the floor but will allow her to vote on bills remotely.

Last November, Zephyr became the first transgender person to be elected to serve in the Montana legislature. Since coming to the house, she has spoken out against numerous bills targeting transgender people, particularly transgender youth.

Last week, the House was debating S.B. 99, which would prohibit all gender-affirming medical care, including hormonal and surgical treatments, for transgender minors. Zephyr first addressed her fellow lawmakers citing studies showing that gender-affirming care drastically reduces rates of suicide among transgender youth. She added that forcing a transgender child to go through puberty was “tantamount to torture, and this body should be ashamed”.

This elicited a reaction and objection from the Republican House Majority Leader, Susan Vinton. Zephyr responded, “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”.

For the week or so since those statements, the Republican House Speaker Matt Regier has refused to allow Zephyr to speak. Regier accused Zephyr of “a breach of decorum” and demanded an apology, which Zephyr refused.

“Freedom” Caucus pushes to silence, censure Zephyr

Montana’s so-called “Freedom” Caucus have, ironically, been the loudest voices calling to silence her speech. The group issued a statement calling to censure Zephyr for “attempting to shame” the body and for using “inappropriate and uncalled-for language”. The statement deliberately misgendered Zephyr by referring to her with male pronouns.

On Monday, about 100 of Zephyr’s supporters crowded into the public gallery and chanted “Let her speak!” as Zephyr silently stood in the middle of the chamber holding a microphone aloft. Republican leadership then called in riot police to remove the protesters, arresting seven.

House Republicans subsequently accused Zephyr “endangering” legislators by attempting to incite a riot. The crowd was loud but entirely peaceful. There was no damage to the building nor any reports of threats.

Before today’s vote, Zephyr finally had a chance to speak, and she remained defiant. She accused the House GOP of silencing her 11,000 constituents and the voices of those being harmed by these bills. Zephyr spoke of friends who’d taken their own lives because of these bills. She also said that a Montana family recently contacted her, saying their trans teenager recently attempted to take her own life while watching a hearing on an anti trans bill which contained hateful rhetoric.

“When the speaker asks me to apologize … on behalf of decorum, what he’s really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed”. She went on to say, “If you use decorum to silence people who hold you accountable, then all you’re doing is using decorum as a tool of oppression”.

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After Thomas, more SCOTUS corruption with Gorsuch land sale

In 2017, just nine days after Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, a 40-acre lot that had sat on the market for two years sold for $1.825 million. Gorsuch, who had a 20% stake in that land, reported on his mandatory disclosure form earning about $250,001 and $500,000 on the sale. But he didn’t disclose who had purchased the land. The buyer was non other than Brian Duffy, CEO of Greenberg Traurig, one of the nation’s biggest law firms which frequently argues in cases before the Supreme Court.

Since then, Greenberg Traurig has either argued or submitted amicus briefs in 22 Supreme Court cases. In the 12 decisions where Gorsuch’s vote is recorded, he sided with Greenberg Traurig’s clients eight times and against them four times.

Duffy claims not to have known Gorsuch co-owned the property when he made his offer and says he has never met Gorsuch. However, the timing of the sale .and the fact Gorsuch didn’t disclose the source of that income, is another ethical black eye for the court.

Chief Justice Roberts declines to appear before Senate Judicial Committee in ethics probe

Earlier this month, ProPublica published a lengthy exposé about Justice Clarence Thomas’ relationship with billionaire Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. That piece detailed lavish luxury vacations which Crow had gifted to Thomas and his wife Ginny multiple times a year over the last 20 years. Again, Thomas never reported those gifts on his mandatory disclosure form for federal employees.

It’s since come to light that Crow also purchased three properties in Georgia from Thomas, none of which Thomas disclosed.

For any other federal employee, these undisclosed financial transactions could be grounds for dismissal or even prosecution. But the Supreme Court sets its own rules, and effectively there’s no one to enforce what rules they do have. 

Sen. Dick Durban, chair of the Judicial Committee, has called a hearing to discuss ethics concerns with the court. Chief Justice John Roberts has turned down the committee’s invitation to appear. In his response to Roberts’ refusal, Durbin said “Make no mistake: Supreme Court ethics reform must happen whether the Court participates in the process or not”.



China’s Xi talks with Zelensky, seeking “political settlement” with Russia

Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping successfully brokered an agreements to temper years of hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Iran. That agreement seems to already be bearing fruit. A few weeks ago, Beijing issued a 12-point plan for peace in Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Western allies dismissed the plan as unserious. The plan contained few specifics and didn’t call for Russian forces to withdraw from Ukraine.

Since the invasion, Xi has strengthened ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including with a recent visit to Moscow. Reports have also surfaced that China planned to secretly send military aid to Russia. It’s unclear if this plan actually came to fruition. 

Regardless, Zelensky spoke directly with Xi for the first time since the invasion.  Zelensky described the conversation as “long and meaningful” and “productive”. The conversation gave Zelensky a chance to put his views to Xi and Zelensky hoped it would lead to “possible interaction with the aim of establishing a just and sustainable peace for Ukraine”.

Beijing has appointed a former ambassador to Russian ambassador to travel to Ukraine as an envoy with the goal of negotiating a “political settlement” to the conflict.

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