Nebraska legislators began a heated debate Tuesday on a bill to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, with Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh having agreed to end her filibuster.
Cavanaugh, a Democrat and supporter of trans rights, had been speaking nonstop for the past few weeks to keep the bill from coming up. “She stuck with it until an agreement was reached late last week to push the bill to the front of the debate queue,” the Associated Press reports. “Instead of trying to eat time to keep the bill from getting to the floor, Cavanaugh decided she wanted a vote to put on the record of which lawmakers would ‘legislate hate against children.’”
She will restart her filibuster if the single-chamber legislature advances the bill. Members are expected to vote Thursday.
The debate “quickly grew contentious,” the AP reports. Sen. Brad von Gillern likened gender-affirming treatment to discredited procedures such as lobotomies and shock treatments, while Sen. John Lowe claimed that gender dysphoria is a temporary condition. Sen. Carol Blood countered that lawmakers who would ban gender-affirming care for youth seem to have no problem with letting babies be circumcised.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kathleen Kauth, argued that minors are not mature enough to make a decision on gender transition and may regret it later. But Sen. Megan Hunt noted that Kauth supports a ban on abortion. “In a couple of weeks, she’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 Kauth’s bill “an assault on individuals that members of this body love,” while Kauth dubbed Cavanaugh’s filibuster “self-serving and childish.” Kauth has agreed to amend her bill to ban only surgical procedures for youth (doctors do not generally recommend genital surgery for minors anyway) and allow the use of puberty blockers and hormones. She said the amended bill is likely to be approved.
Cavanaugh recently spoke to Vogueabout her filibuster and her support of trans youth. “It’s emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting,” she said of the filibuster. “It takes a lot of brainpower. It takes a lot of stamina. Apparently, I’ve talked about things that I don’t even remember, like the plot of the movie Madagascar — I do not remember that conversation at all. But I saw it on TV, so it must be true.”
She said most of the feedback she’s received has been positive, and she said Republicans as well as Democrats should oppose the bill, because it’s “government overreach.” She urged those who oppose such measures should contact their legislators and always be sure to vote.
“Failure isn’t an option because, if I fail, I’m failing children, and I’m not going to fail children,” she added. “It is my job to show up for them and to protect them and to ensure their health and safety and well-being in this state.”