Nebraska Legislature advances bill to ban gender-affirming care for youth
Vote to move LB574 ahead passed 30-17 with two senators voting ‘present, not voting’
LINCOLN, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska lawmakers on Thursday voted to advance LB574, which would ban gender-affirming care for youth.
The bill, known as the “Let Them Grow Act,” survived a 33-16 cloture vote before it passed General File 30-17 with two state senators — Tom Brandt of Plymouth and Jana Hughes of Seward — voting “present, not voting.”
Omaha State Sen. Kathleen Kauth said that State Sen. Mike Jacobson of North Platte was “instrumental” in the advancement of the bill.
“It was pretty clear for me from the people I talked to that we were 2, 3, or even 4 or 5 votes short with the bill in its current form,” Jacobson said. “So I did some work behind the scenes to try to find compromise.”
He said he did that by removing that part of the bill that would ban non-surgical gender-affirming care. In other words, he worked on gathering support for an amendment that would allow puberty blockers and hormone treatments.
“I found out what it was going to take from those individuals to support at least a cloture vote and get this bill at least across the finish line,” Jacobson said.
“We had agreed to put on the amendment to remove the puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, and that was enough to get us there,” Kauth said.
Kauth opened Thursday’s session comments but Democratic opponents occupied the rest of the morning’s debate time on the Unicameral floor with more than a dozen consecutive bracket motions in order to prevent supporters from speaking at all ahead of the cloture vote.
It was an emotional morning as those at the mic read letters from medical professionals and parents while others shared their own personal experiences as parents and as LGBTQ+ community members themselves. More than one senator was brought to tears amid their allotted speaking time.
State Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont spoke about her son’s serious depression after returning from Afghanistan. State Sen. Jen Day of Omaha talked about the struggles of being a kid amid a political climate that brings gender-affirming care into question. State Sen. Johh Frederickson of Omaha struggled at times to speak at all as he talked about how grateful he was for his parents’ acceptance.
Several of the lawmakers pleaded with their fellow state senators to either vote “no” or “present not voting” on cloture while indicating that if the bill were to advance, they plan to filibuster all other bills.
ABOUT THE FILIBUSTER
Debate on the controversial bill was scheduled for this week only after a weeks-long filibuster by Omaha State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh that continues to make national headlines.
“You’re not going to get to vote on the amendment. You vote for this...you vote for this,” she said while pointing to herself.
Others indicated Thursday that they will be joining Cavanaugh in those efforts.
In asking for them not to advance LB574, Sen. Day urged her fellow lawmakers “to save the rest of this session. Because if it continues, Sen. Cavanaugh has several senators that are joining her in filibustering, including myself.”
State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha said the group was prepared to filibuster even their own bills.
“We’ve made it clear that this is a line in the sand; and people have said, ‘What if we go after your bills? What if we put a bunch of bills introduced by progressives up on the agenda? are you going to filibuster those too?’ Yeah. Yes,” she said.
Kauth said she knew another filibuster was coming if her bill continues forward: “It’s unfortunate, but there are procedural ways that we’ll handle it. We’re just going to be working long, long, long days and going into the night to get some more hours in.”
Debate on the bill began Tuesday, when Republican supporters of the bill attempted to end debate after only a few had been able to speak; and continued on Wednesday, with some senators raising legal concerns about the ban.
ADVOCATE GROUPS RESPOND
Several organizations have been keeping an eye on the week’s developments — here in Nebraska and elsewhere across the country, where similar laws have sparked legal battles. The ACLU of Nebraska told 6 News on Thursday that they’re paying close attention to how that situation is unfolding in Arkansas, but stopped short of indicating they would pursue similar legal action here.
They did note in social media posts that “this isn’t over.”
“We will never rule out an option to protect Nebraskans’ rights, and as senators have referenced during debate, the ACLU and ACLU of Arkansas are currently litigating a case on this exact issue,” said Sam Petto with the ACLU of Nebraska. “With that said, our focus right now is trying to prevent harm by stopping this bill in the legislature. We are laser-focused on that process.”
The ACLU of Nebraska noted in a release on Thursday following the Unicameral vote that a hearing on LB574 drew Nebraskans opposing the bill to the Capitol to testify in front of the committee before many were turned away.
“We will do everything in our power to ensure that our youth survive to become happy, healthy and successful adults,” Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of OutNebraska, said in a news release Thursday. “Trans people are brilliant, beautiful and resilient, and they belong here in our state.”
In response to the bill’s advancement, OutNebraska posted resources for transgender youth to contact if they were in distress.
“The implications of this bill should not be taken lightly,” the OutNebraska release states. “If LB574 passes into law, our state will become even more unsafe for transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming Nebraskans.”
Correction: A previous version of this story contained an incorrect vote tally. 6 News regrets the error.
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