Pennsylvania's only Latina legislator was interrupted and had her microphone turned off on Monday while she was arguing during a House committee hearing against a bill that would make English the official state language.
The exchange was first reported by Raging Chicken Press, a Pennsylvania blog that covers state lawmakers. The outlet posted a video of Rep. Leslie Acosta (D) doing what legislators do at committee hearings with their allotted time: making an argument that leads to a question for a witness. The day's witness, white nationalist Robert Vandervoot, was testifying before the committee in defense of the bill.
When she began to give her statement and introduce her question for Vandervoot, Acosta used a somewhat unusual approach: She started by speaking Spanish.
The legislator then began speaking in English, but committee chairman and bill co-sponsor Daryl Metcalfe interrupted her, calling her statements out of line with the questioning process. Then, her mic was turned off.
"I started out in Spanish to make a statement," Acosta, the first Latina state representative in Pennsylvania's history, told The Huffington Post. "I'm a testament to success in this country and I understand that English is necessary to succeed... but this bill is a violation of First Amendment rights and interferes with the 14th Amendment."
The bill has been proposed as a way to save government money because it wouldn't have to translate government documents into Spanish. But its text doesn't include any estimates of how much money it could save -- or even any evidence that it would save money at all.
"How do you defend a bill and yet you don't have the answers to how much this going to save the government? It's pandering," Acosta said.
Metcalfe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Acosta represents the 197th District, the second-poorest district in Pennsylvania. Her constituency is 53 percent Latino and 43 percent African-American, she told RCP.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Acosta's district as the 53rd; she represents the 197th.