There's a reason courts have held that elected officials are immune from prosecution for what they say on the floor of a legislative body: Democracy depends on freedom of expression, however outrageous. The Republicans who control Michigan's Legislature don't understand that.
This month, GOP lawmakers rammed a harsh and likely unconstitutional anti-abortion bill through the Michigan House. It is designed to exert a chilling effect on any woman who seeks to end her pregnancy, by requiring her to be interrogated about whether she was "coerced" to do so.
Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown, a 45-year-old mother of three, thought this was outrageous. "I'm flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina," she told her colleagues, "but no means no."
Another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Barbara Byrum, then introduced an amendment that sought to apply the bill's provisions to men who seek vasectomies. She was silenced by GOP leaders, who then banned both women from speaking on the House floor.
Regardless of your stand on abortion, such censorship is unacceptable and has drawn national attention. Nobody has suggested silencing Republican lawmakers who routinely accuse Democrats of pursuing a "socialist" agenda.
The suspicion is strong that some lawmakers cannot cope with assertive women, especially when they discuss sexuality. Michigan Republicans may pay for this at the polls.
Both of the silenced lawmakers are running for county clerk this year. Their home areas -- affluent Oakland and Ingham counties, respectively -- were once safely Republican but have trended Democratic, thanks in large part to educated women who have left the GOP in droves.
If they win in November, Michigan's backward Republican leaders can look to themselves for blame.