LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers have begun a second round of debate on a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors that has proved to be so contentious, it’s led opponents filibuster every single bill before the Nebraska Legislature since late February.
That effort has largely hamstrung the body’s work. While lawmakers have managed to advance a number of bills, it had not passed a single bill by Wednesday, which marked the 60th day of this year’s 90-day session.
Lawmakers entered the debate Thursday already raw from a contentious all-day showdown Wednesday over a bill that would greatly restrict abortion access in the state. That bill, which advanced on the slimmest of margins over strident objections from opponents, would ban abortion once cardiac activity can be detected in an embryo, which is generally around the sixth week of pregnancy and before most women even know they are pregnant.
The transgender health proposal has proved to be even more polemic. It advanced from the first eight-hour round of debate last month after supporters and opponents angrily accused each other of lacking collegiality.
Even before Thursday’s debate began, opponents signaled that deliberations would become heated. Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt lashed out at supporters of the trans health ban Wednesday night. For Hunt, the debate is deeply personal; she shared on the floor of the Legislature during the first debate on the bill that her teenage son is transgender. She has since refused to speak to lawmakers who voted to advance the proposal.
“Unless the bill is killed, every bill will be filibustered, and we will talk about LB574 every day on every bill,” Hunt said on the floor Wednesday night.
The bill by Republican Sen. Kathleen Kauth, a freshman lawmaker in the officially-nonpartisan state Legislature, would outlaw gender-affirming therapies such as hormone treatments, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for those 18 and younger.
It was cited as the genesis of a nearly three-week, uninterrupted filibuster carried by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, who followed through on her vow in late February to filibuster every bill before the Legislature — even those she supported — declaring she would “burn the session to the ground over this bill.” When the bill advanced anyway last month, several other lawmakers joined in the filibuster.
The Nebraska bill, along with another that would ban trans people from using bathrooms and locker rooms or playing on sports teams that don’t align with the sex listed on their birth certificates, are among roughly 150 bills targeting transgender people that have been introduced in state legislatures this year.
The bill must get 33 votes Thursday and again in a later third round of debate to overcome filibusters and pass. Republican Gov. Jim Pillen has said he will sign the bill if it passes.