The Nebraska GOP has ended Democrats’ weeks-long filibuster held in an effort to stop a bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth.
The 33 votes needed to overcome the filibuster were garnered after lawmakers combined gender-affirming care restrictions and a 12-week abortion ban into one bill. A previous bill proposing a six-week abortion ban failed. Republicans added the measure to the trans health care ban as a way to prevent the issue from being tabled until the next legislative session.
Democratic state Sen. Machaeala Cavanaugh (with the help of lawmakers Megan Hunt and Jen Day) has been filibustering every bill proposed in the unicameral legislature this year until the anti-trans bill is off the table.
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 if the bill passes.
A previous bill to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy failed previously. Right now, it is banned in the state after 20 weeks. The new bill would still allow abortion in cases of incest, rape, or if the pregnancy is life-threatening.
As debate took place on Tuesday, hundreds of angry protestors chanted in the state Capitol rotunda, as well as from the chamber balcony. Shouts of “One more vote to save our lives; you can’t defeat our human rights!” reportedly made it difficult to even hear the debate.
Afterward, those who voted for the bill snuck out a back exit with police escorts.
“Shame on you who are devising escape routes out of here,” said Sen. Megan Hunt (I) on the microphone, according to the Associated Press. “If you can’t go out there and face the people you are hurting, then you are not worthy of this job.”
Hunt, on the other hand, exited the building arm-in-arm with Cavanaugh as protestors cheered, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
During the debate, Cavanaugh reportedly told supporters of the bill, “You are willing to drive this state into the ground. You look ridiculous. Women will die, children are dying, and you are responsible.”
“You will have buckets and buckets of blood on your hands,” she said, a reference to the words that led Montana Republicans to ban trans state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) from the house floor.
Cavanaugh also criticized the way Republicans handled the process, ending debates on her priority motions against the bill without allowing everyone who wanted to the chance to speak on it. This is “beneath the Nebraska Legislature,” she said.
Hunt told The Advocate, “Yesterday, we witnessed unprecedented procedural maneuvers that eroded the respect for our institution. It is apparent that my colleagues have not only disregarded the norms and rules that have long guided our deliberative process but have shattered them with a brazen disregard for the consequences.”
“The very essence of democracy lies in mutual respect and adherence to established protocols that ensure fair and inclusive governance. The actions of certain members have undermined this foundation, fueling a toxic atmosphere of partisanship and personal gain.”
Hunt blasted Republicans for continuing “to stifle the voice of the people by limiting participation in committee hearings to hypocritically and arbitrarily applying legislative rules to hiding from the people by scurrying out of the capitol via tunnels to avoid facing the consequences of their votes.”
The legislation, L.B. 574, will need to survive one more round of debate before passing. If and when it does, Gov. Jim Pillen (R) has said he will sign it.