Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (R) signed a bill banning both abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy as well as gender-affirming care for trans youth. To pass the bill, the GOP ended a weeks-long progressive-led filibuster intended to stop the legislation.
The GOP was victorious in ending the filibuster and passing the bill by only one vote, and now, one state senator who voted in the bill’s favor has admitted she didn’t even understand the issue she was voting on.
Sen. Christy Armendariz (R) told Lila Shapiro of New York Magazine that it didn’t make sense to her that a reporter from New York had traveled to Nebraska to even cover the issue of trans rights. She told Shapiro that she does not watch the news or get the newspaper.
“Is there anything going on I should be aware of?” she asked. When Shapiro explained that anti-trans bills were passing around the country, Armendariz responded, “So is it a big widespread thing?”
“I knocked doors for a year, and nobody brought this up,” she told Shapiro, explaining that everyday Nebraskans were not concerned with the issue and adding that she wished the bill had never been introduced.
Armendariz also expressed confusion about the meaning of gender identity. She said trans issues remind her of “the huge backlash the country had several years ago about body image and how the airbrushed photos and the perfect body image really needs to go away and the real human needs to be shown.”
“What happened to that philosophy?” she asked.
Shapiro tried to explain that gender dysphoria and body image issues were not the same, but Armendariz continued to conflate the two.
“When I was a teenager and I was going through a lot of trouble, my mom used to tell me, ‘You can’t run away from yourself. You’re inside. Your head’s always going to be the same.’”
Shapiro then pointed out that cis women and teenage girls are allowed to get breast augmentation, trying to explain the hypocrisy of banning trans youth from doing the same.
“I don’t have much breasts at all,” she responded. “You can probably tell I do not feel that way.”
Despite this lack of understanding, Armendariz voted in favor of the bill.
For weeks on end, the Nebraska legislature had been ground to a halt by a heroic filibuster led by Democratic state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh with the help of state Sens. Megan Hunt (I) and Jen Day (D). The state senators had been filibustering every bill proposed in the unicameral legislature this year and said they would do so until the gender-affirming care ban was off the table.
But a series of GOP actions that many say did not follow protocol – Hunt called them “unprecedented procedural maneuvers that eroded the respect of our institution” – led to the end of the filibuster as well as a 12-week abortion ban tacked on to the gender-affirming care ban.
While signing the bill, Pillen called it “the most significant win for social conservatives in a generation.”
In addition to adding the abortion restrictions, the GOP softened the gender-affirming care side of the bill, banning only gender-affirming surgery (which is almost never performed on minors anyway) for those under 19, rather than preventing puberty blockers and hormone replacement therapy as well.
However, the amended bill says that Nebraska’s chief medical officer, Timothy Tesmer – who has voiced opposition to all forms of gender-affirming care for minors – will regulate the use of hormones and puberty blockers. As such, many trans rights advocates say the ultimate outcome will be the same.
But it wasn’t only Armendariz who wasn’t interested in the issues at hand. Shapiro mentioned that many Republicans resented the time that had been spent on the bill.
“They had campaigned on expanding broadband access, reducing property taxes, making the government more efficient — things they felt actually mattered in the daily lives of their constituents,” Shapiro wrote. “They hadn’t run for local office because they wanted to take up arms in the culture war, especially not for a cause many of them had never thought about before and didn’t have much interest in thinking about now.”