Uppity Women at the MT Legislature

There are more than a few social media posts on legislative leadership muzzling Montana women representatives and senators.

Why am I the only senator instructed to “be brief” about my comments on Medicaid expansion on the senate floor today?

That’s from Sen. Jen Gross (D-Billings) during Montana Senate floor debate on Medicaid expansion. Senate President Scott Sales (R-Bozeman) uttered the “be brief” warning. But as long as you’re advancing Republican talking points, Sales won’t rein you in.

Sen. Dee Brown (R-Hungry Horse) talked about poor people wanting to stay poor so they could claim Medicaid. Sen. Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls) doubled-down with, “people will choose to be poor” to get “socialized medicine.”

It isn’t just the state senate where Democratic women are stifled. The day before in the house of representatives, Jessica Karjala (D-Billings), spoke to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade:

I read a 4+ minute announcement commemorating the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Starting at 13:03 you will hear the speaker launch into a censure from him and the minority leader (also a man) of me regarding my previous day’s announcement. It is part censorship, part erroneous interpretation of the rules and mostly a rambling and incoherent 4+ minute statement about applesauce.

Mary Ann Dunwell (D-Helena) expressed similar treatment:

I too am told to be brief, or ‘just one question’, or ‘not in order,’ or just not called on or recognized. Yet Republican men are permitted to blather on, given the floor to rule the roost.

Similar sentiments from former house member Ellie Hill-Smith (D-Missoula):

During my eight years in the legislature, this presumably unconscious bias yet blatantly discriminatory treatment towards female colleagues is still startling and profound. I am STILL angry that it is tacitly encouraged. It is part of a party line culture to show dominance and make us feel less powerful.

Even former Montana Speaker of the House Carol Williams (D-Missoula) weighed in with, “Thanks for pointing this out, Jen.”

But as long as you toe the line (like anti-choice, anti-vaccination Rep. Theresa Manzella {R-Hamilton} as an example), you can speak on the floor. If you’re a Democrat, especially a women, not so much.

Republican men wield most of the power in the legislature: speaker of the house, house majority leader, senate president and senate majority leader. It shows.

But I’ll leave with this, from Rep. Dunwell:

I was scheduled to give today’s House floor invocation, but got bumped by a member of Majority leadership. Nevertheless, I post what I was going to say.
On this 81st legislative day, as we approach Passover and Easter, a holy season of rebirth and renewal, and as we mark Ellis Island History Day, I read from Terry Tempest Williams…

“The human heart is the first home of democracy.
It is where we embrace our questions.
Can we be equitable?
Can we be generous?
Can we listen with our whole beings,
Not just our minds,
And offer our attention rather than our opinions?
And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up – ever –
Trusting our fellow citizens to join us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?”


If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

Subscribe to our posts

About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.

1 Comment

Click here to post a comment

Please enter an e-mail address

  • Dee Brown actually stated that people want to remain poor just so they can be on Medicaid such a disgusting ridiculous statement. How dumb and how wrong!

Latest PostCast

Support Our Work!

Subscribe Via E-mail


Which Democratic Candidate for Governor Do You Support Today?

Send this to a friend