Nebraska politicians began debating a bill Tuesday to ban surgery for transgender children and young adults, after an opponent of the bill spent three weeks blocking a vote with filibuster.
Machaela Cavanaugh, a Democrat representing an Omaha district in the state senate, launched her filibuster after Kathleen Kauth, a Republican who also represents Omaha, introduced the bill.
The bill, LB574, was introduced on January 17 and would “prohibit gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgeries for children under 19 years of age.”
Cavanaugh and his supporters said the bill was harmful to transgender teens, called it “genocide” and vowed to stop the legislation in protest.
“If this Legislature decides collectively that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I’m going to make it painful, painful for everyone,” said Cavanaugh, a married mother of three.
‘Because if you want to inflict pain on our children, I’m going to inflict pain on this body.
‘I’m going to burn the session to the ground on this bill.’
Senator Machaela Cavanaugh speaks before the Nebraska Legislature on March 13 in the midst of her three-week filibuster, protesting a bill that would ban gender-affirming treatment for transgender children.
Kathleen Kauth, a Republican who also represents Omaha, introduced bill LB574 in January
Cavanaugh was able to slow down the process of passing laws by introducing amendment after amendment to each bill that reaches the state Senate floor and taking up the eight hours of debate allowed by the rules.
Clerk of the Legislature, Brandon Metzler, said a delay like this has happened only a couple of times in the last 10 years.
“But what’s really unusual is the lack of bills that have moved forward,” Metzler said. We are usually much further away than what we are seeing now.
Only 26 bills have advanced since the first of the three rounds of debate required to pass a bill in Nebraska. Normally there would be two to three times that number by mid-March, Metzler said.
“I have nothing, nothing but time,” he declared at one point.
‘And I’m going to use it all.
‘If people think they’re going to wear me down, if yesterday didn’t show you that you can’t wear me down, you can’t wear me down.
“I literally left the apartment yesterday, went up to my office and lay on the floor.
“I lay on the floor, a hard floor, and took a 20-minute nap before going to the committee hearings.
‘You can not stop me. They won’t stop me.
She continued: ‘So. If LB574 gets an early discussion in the room and moves forward, it will be very painful for this body.’
In the past three weeks since Cavanaugh began his blockade of bills, only three bills have moved forward.
“I want us to have the debate on these bills, and I want us to vote on these bills,” he said on March 15.
“And I want a record of the history of this genocide for those who supported it.
‘For those who had the opportunity to change the course of history, the direction in which we are moving as a state and a country.
‘I want a record. I want the bloody hands registered.
‘This is genocide.
“This is an assault on a population of people because they are different from you.”
On Tuesday, the debate on LB574 finally began.
The debate soon turned contentious, with supporters and opponents angrily venting their frustration and admonishing each other for a lack of camaraderie.
Senator John Arch is seen speaking in the Nebraska Senate in January. The Senate is currently debating a transgender children’s health care bill
John Lowe, a senator from Kearney, cited an advocacy group’s claim that gender dysphoria in youth “is only temporary.”
Senator Brad von Gillern of Omaha compared gender-affirming treatment to shock treatments, lobotomies and forced sterilizations of years past.
Carol Blood, a senator from Bellevue, responded that if legislators really care about medical procedures that affect children, ‘how come we’re not talking about circumcision?’
The debate in the Senate is expected to last until Thursday.
Cavanaugh ultimately decided to drop the filibuster, saying he wanted a vote, to record which legislators would “legislate hate against children.”
Lawmakers met Tuesday to begin that debate with the understanding that the bill did not have enough votes to break a filibuster.
But Kauth filed an amendment to remove the restriction on hormone treatments and instead ban only gender reassignment surgery for minors.
That amendment, he said, has enough votes to move forward.
Cavanaugh has said that if the bill advances to a vote scheduled for Thursday, he will resume filibustering on all bills until the end of the 90-day session in early June.
Hard feelings from lawmakers on both sides of the bill surfaced almost immediately Tuesday, with Kauth calling Cavanaugh’s filibuster “selfish and childish.”
Kauth said the purpose of her bill is to protect young people from undergoing gender-affirming treatments they may later regret as adults, citing research that says adolescent brains are not fully developed.
Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt called that argument hypocritical, noting that Kauth supports an abortion ban bill introduced this session that would also affect teens.
“In a couple of weeks, he’s going to turn around and vote for a bill that would force 12-year-olds to have a baby,” Hunt said.
‘She thinks they’re mature enough for that.’
Cavanaugh called the trans treatment bill “an assault on the people that members of this body love” and appealed to Republican body members to return to their founding principles of getting government out of people’s lives.
“Many of you have spoken to me about government overreach over and over again,” he said.
“This bill runs counter to the principles that many of you have expressed to me are the foundation of why you are here.”
Cavanaugh has spent weeks obstructing the bill and will resume his actions if the bill passes.
The Nebraska bill, along with another that would bar trans people from using bathrooms and locker rooms or playing on sports teams that don’t align with the gender listed on their birth certificates, are among approximately 150 bills targeting transgender people that have been introduced in state legislatures this year.
Bans on gender-affirming care for minors have already been enacted this year in some Republican-led states, including South Dakota, Utah and Mississippi.
arkansas and Alabama they have bans that were temporarily blocked by federal judges.
Legislatures in other states have given final approval to measures similar to the Nebraska bill, with Georgia sending the governor Tuesday a bill that would ban most gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapy for transgender minors.