A Democratic lawmaker is threatening to cripple the Nebraska legislature’s 90-day session in protest over a bill banning gender-affirming therapies for kids — which she calls a transgender “genocide.”
Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh started her filibuster in late February after a Republican introduced the bill to outlaw hormone treatments, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for those under 18.
“If this legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful — painful for everyone,” the married mother of three threatened fellow lawmakers.
“I will burn the session to the ground over this bill.”
After proudly blocking debate on everything — even items she supports — for nearly three weeks, the Democrat finally agreed to debate a modified version of the bill after it dropped the restriction on hormone treatments, instead banning only gender reassignment surgery for minors.
Even then, she said, it was just to put on the record which lawmakers would “legislate hate against children” — and vowing to continue her filibuster for the rest of the 90-day session ending in June if the vote goes against her this Thursday.
She has cited a 2021 survey by the Trevor Project that found that 58% of transgender and nonbinary youth in Nebraska seriously considered suicide in the previous year, and more than 1 in 5 reported attempting it.
“We are witnessing a genocide,” she told the legislature last week.
“I’ll just call a genocide the genocide. This is what it is. These bills are steppingstones in the eradication of trans Nebraskans. And voting for them is voting for a steppingstone in genocide,” she maintained.
Outraged at the language, Republican Sen. Julie Slama filed a motion to censure the filibustering Dem.
“As soon as you get on the mic and try to compare what this legislative body is doing to the murder — the systemic murder of millions of people whether they be Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Rwandans, victims of socialism, victims of communism … I’m beyond words right now,” Slama said at the time.
“That’s a level of ignorance that’s unacceptable in a legislative body.”
Republican Sen. Kathleen Kauth, the freshman who introduced the bill, called Cavanaugh’s filibuster “self-serving and childish.”
Kauth said her bill aims to protect youth from undertaking gender-affirming treatments they might later regret as adults, citing research that says adolescents’ brains aren’t fully developed.
The modified bill brought even more heated debate during an initial 8-hour session Tuesday in Nebraska’s unique single-chamber legislature, which is officially nonpartisan.
Sen. Brad von Gillern, of Omaha, for instance, compared the gender-affirming treatment to shock treatments, lobotomies and forced sterilizations of years past.
Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group OutNebraska, hailed Cavanaugh for her “heroic effort.”
“It is extremely meaningful when an ally does more than pay lip service to allyship. She really is leading this charge.”
Nebraska also has a bill that would ban trans people from using bathrooms and locker rooms or playing on sports teams that don’t align with the gender listed on their birth certificates.
They are among roughly 150 bills targeting transgender people that have been introduced in state legislatures this year.
Bans on gender-affirming care for minors have already been enacted this year in South Dakota, Utah and Mississippi. Arkansas and Alabama have bans that were temporarily blocked by federal judges.
Georgia on Tuesday sent Gov. Brian Kemp a bill that would ban most gender-affirming surgeries and hormone replacement therapies for minors.
With Post wires