Conservative co-sponsors abandon their own bill after gay politician’s powerful speech

John Fredrickson
John Fredrickson Photo: Screenshot

Nebraska state Senator John Fredrickson is the first out gay man elected to the state legislature. Now, he has another feather in his cap.

After an impassioned speech in opposition to a bill that targeted transgender youth, two of his colleagues changed their minds about the legislation that they had co-sponsored. The measure did not pass out of committee after they did.

The state’s legislature is nonpartisan but breaks into traditional Democrat and Republican divides. As in other states, bills attacking the transgender community have been championed by conservatives.

The bill would have banned transgender youth from locker rooms, sports teams and bathrooms that match their gender identity. It also effectively barred transgender boys from all sports competitions.

Fredrickson and his husband have a son – and as a gay parent, he spoke directly to the kids and families who were under the microscope.

“The world can be tough and scary,” he said. “I personally know a thing or two about having a family that many people might say is not normal.”

“I stand here today, confidently, to tell you if you love your kid unconditionally for who they are, and if they know they’re loved, you can weather a lot,” Fredrickson added.

“Don’t spend a minute of your energy or time thinking about any of my colleagues in here who are too scared of difference to allow themselves to understand and celebrate the beauty and joy that you bring to our state.”

Instead, he said, parents should “love your babies and surround yourself with the people who love you.”

The bill was being filibustered. It needed 33 votes to pass out of the committee, but it garnered only 31. After Fredrickson gave his speech, when it came time to vote, two co-sponsors of the bill, state Sens. Tom Brandt and Merv Riepe, chose to abstain. Their move effectively stopped the bill.

Nebraska’s legislature will adjourn this week.

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