Nebraska Enacts Bill Protecting Minors from Gender Transitions, Unborn after 12 Weeks
Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen (R) on Monday signed a combination bill (LB574) protecting minors from gender transitions and protecting unborn babies after 12 weeks’ gestation. The measure provoked several extremely pro-trans Democratic senators to engage in an unprecedented filibuster of the entire legislative session and barrage the bill with unserious procedural motions designed to bog the process down.
“Protecting our children is critically important,” said Kauth at the bill signing. “I brought LB574 because we have too many kids who are being swept up in what is a social contagion, and being told that … if they just switch their gender, they’ll be fine, everything will be great. That’s not true.”
With 10 days left in the legislative session, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature voted 33-15 on Friday to pass LB574 through four separate votes, with the exact margin of support needed to break the filibuster.
In an increasingly common sight, protestors in the balcony interrupted the legislative session, forcing it to recess while the balconies were cleared. At around 2:50 p.m., while bill sponsor Senator Kathleen Kauth (R) discussed the lack of scientific evidence that gender transition procedures are safe for children, a protestor clad in a shirt depicting a combat knife and the slogan “protect trans kids” began yelling obscenities. Other protestors began chanting and throwing dirty tampons onto the senators below. Four people (three protestors and a supporter) were arrested for refusing to leave as police cleared the balconies. In anticipation of protests, the legislature had taken the precaution of assigning separate balconies for opponents and supporters of LB574. Disruptive balcony protests against legislation to protect children from gender transition procedures have led to arrests in Kentucky (March 29), Florida (April 18), Montana (April 24), and now Nebraska.
Protestors also occupied the Capitol Rotunda, chanting so loudly (and singing multiple verses of “Amazing Grace”) that senators had trouble hearing questions addressed to them. Two more protestors in the rotunda were arrested after a man attempted to prevent a sergeant-at-arms from opening the chamber door and a woman punched an officer in the chest.
“‘Trans people belong here. We need trans people. We love trans people.’ That’s what they’re saying out there. They’re standing in a circle in a rotunda saying that over and over again,” said Senator Machaela Cavanaugh (D), who filibustered the entire session over LB574, in an eerie, emotionless tone. She then repeated the chant, slowly at first, but gradually building in fervor and expression, until by the 28th time she had reached an emotional crescendo between a scream and a wail. Her next remarks indicated the performance was not for the benefit of her fellow senators, but for the protestors outside. “You matter. You matter. And I am fighting for you. I will not stop. I will not stop today. I will not stop tomorrow. You are loved. You matter. You belong here.”
Due to the protestors obstructing entrances in the rotunda, law enforcement officers escorted senators out of the chamber through a construction zone. The move prompted Cavanaugh to quip, “If you have to lie, cheat, [and] steal to get your outcome, you should really ask yourselves, should you be doing this? And if you have to exit through a construction zone, should you have voted that way?”
“Don’t you dare get up here and spout about cowardice when senators chose not to incite a mob of hundreds of angry protestors that not only were packing the rotunda but were blocking every single entrance out of this building,” Senator Julie Slama (R) responded to Cavanaugh. Slama previously filed a motion to censure Cavanaugh for comparing the bill to genocide. “Don’t you dare spout about cowardice when we had senators leaking where senators were evacuating to, so that the angry mob could go catch them there,” Slama added. Video footage shows Cavanaugh entering the rotunda to cheers.
The bill will likely face a legal challenge. “There are lawsuits ready to be filed, in the event that this gets signed into law,” warned Senator Jen Day (D) before it passed. Out Nebraska executive director Abbi Swatsworth added that the bill’s passage was “very painful news, but we’re not done yet.” Governor Pillen responded to prospect of lawsuits against the bill, “Of course we’re prepared, and of course we’re going to win if that takes place.”
However, some opponents of the bill made remarks implying their continued operations against the bill would stretch beyond lawsuits. “We’re going to take this as far as need be, to make it stop,” said Dr. Alex Dworak, associate medical director at One World Omaha, whose practice would be affected by the bill’s restrictions on gender transition procedures for minors.
The incendiary remarks even came from members of the Nebraska Senate. “I can’t imagine [how] anyone ran to be in the legislature, and they’re motivated by hate. I don’t know how to calm us down,” said Senator Lou Ann Linehan (D). Cavanaugh urged protestors to “Do anything. Do everything,” although after criticism from other senators she added, “I do not mean political violence. Anything within legal reason.” Senator Megan Hunt (D), another of LB574’s fiercest opponents, and who has a daughter who identifies as transgender, warned senators to vote against the bill, “I’m asking you to love your family more than you hate mine.”
“Elections matter. Conservative leadership matters. [I] couldn’t be more proud of the work that everybody’s done to stand up, for the courage to fight for our kids, to save babies,” said Pillen. “Today is an extraordinary, historic day for the state of Nebraska. It’s a day where it’s really simple. We’re standing up to protect our kids so that our state has a bigger and brighter future. LB574 is the most significant win for the social conservative agenda in over a generation in the state of Nebraska.”
“This bill is just a start. We have a lot more work to do,” Pillen added. “We are working to inspire Nebraskans to get in the game so that abortion is simply unthinkable. … Our kids deserve protection, whether they be an unborn boy or girl, or a teenager trying to figure out who they are.”
LB574 faced a marathon process to become law. As soon as it was introduced, it faced opposition from far-Left Democrats like Hunt and Cavanaugh who harassed it with constant motions. Once the bill cleared the committee process, Cavanaugh declared she would filibuster the entire legislative session unless the speaker agreed to kill the bill, which he declined to do. Since that time, the legislature had advanced legislation only slowly.
Under the rules of the Nebraska Senate, each bill must come up for three rounds of debate before passage, with set time periods before the legislature can invoke cloture and advance the bill. Even after the required time period elapses, a cloture vote requires a two-thirds majority (33 out of 49 votes, or 66%) to succeed.
Currently, Republicans hold 32 seats in the Nebraska Senate (which is technically nonpartisan), one vote short of the margin needed to invoke cloture. However, Senator Mike McDonnell (D) is openly pro-life because of his Catholic beliefs and, it turns out, solidly against gender transitions for minors, too. His vote, plus that of every Republican, is essential at every stage to advance any bills that advance policies that are pro-life or pro-biblical sexuality.
One casualty of this high threshold to break a filibuster was Nebraska’s heartbeat bill (LB626). After supporting it through the first round of debate, Senator Merv Riepe (R) voted “present” during the second round of debate, causing the bill to fall short of the 33 votes needed to advance. While Riepe would no longer support restricting abortion after six weeks, he would ultimately support restricting abortion after 12 weeks in voting for LB574. “I believe most Nebraskans feel 12 weeks with reasonable exceptions is a reasonable and sensible compromise that protects the unborn, respects women’s reproductive rights, and is legally defensible,” he said.
LB574 nearly suffered the same fate. While Democratic Senator McDonnell supported the bill wholeheartedly, several Republican senators had reservations about the bill as originally introduced, particularly with its prohibition against doctors prescribing puberty blockers. Although puberty blockers “stop” fertility, cause serious side effects, are not tested or approved for blocking normal puberty, and virtually guarantee children will continue on to more aggressive gender transition procedures, the pro-trans medical community touts them as harmless and reversible.
These Republicans agreed to support the bill through two rounds of voting, but only on the condition that the bill would be amended to address their concerns. Senator Kauth introduced an amendment that would weaken the bill to only prohibit gender transition surgeries on minors, but it overwhelmingly failed, with even the bill’s opponents helping to sink it. After a month of further negotiations, when the bill came up for a vote after the third round of debate, Republicans adopted a compromise amendment, which also included restrictions on abortion after 12 weeks (another compromise position among Republicans) and which was the version that finally passed.
In its final form, LB574 prohibits gender transition surgeries on minors and the use of state funds for gender transition procedures on minors. It also subjects puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to rules and regulations promulgated by the chief medical officer, which must include a “minimum number of gender-identity-focused therapeutic hours required prior to an individual” receiving drugs, “patient advisory requirements,” “patient medical record documentation,” and a “minimum waiting period.” Nebraska’s chief medical officer is a position appointed by the governor. It excepts hormone treatments “begun before” the bill or if the individual “has a long-lasting and intense pattern of gender nonconformity or gender dysphoria which began or worsened at the start of puberty.” It also protects the life of unborn babies after 12 weeks’ gestation with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother; previously, Nebraska law only protected life after 22 weeks’ gestation.
Nebraska Family Alliance policy director Nate Grasz called the bill “a victory for truth, commonsense, and the protection of vulnerable children and a strike against the extreme obstruction tactics of opposing senators.” He told The Washington Stand it “would keep Nebraska from becoming a destination for abortion and ensure children receive real help instead of surgeries with lifelong irreversible consequences.”
However Grasz recognized the bill was not perfect. “It’s not everything we hoped to see accomplished this session, and we’re going to keep fighting until every life is protected,” he said. “We want Nebraska to continue to lead on these issues rather than fall behind.”
Last Tuesday, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina accomplished a similar feat, successfully overriding Governor Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of a compromise bill to restrict abortion after 12 weeks, also without a single vote to spare.
Kauth sounded a similar note. “It’s not exactly what we wanted. But, as I’ve been finding out, you don’t get exactly what you want.”
However, Kauth said the unprecedented filibuster actually helped LB574 finally succeed. “Had they not filibustered, this bill would have been dead in February,” she said. “Because the filibuster gave us more time to talk to each other, … the filibuster is actually what made this happen. And so, I doubt it was their intention, but that gave us the time to make this work, and now we will be able to let children grow.”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.