A Friday morning session in the unicameral Nebraska legislature devolved into chaos after one Democratic lawmaker began shouting her support for transgender people amid a debate on a bill to ban sex change procedures for minors in the state.
The bill, which was ultimately approved by lawmakers and sent to Republican Gov. Jim Pillen’s desk to become law, bans sex change procedures for minors, as well as abortion after 12 weeks of pregnancy.
In voicing her disapproval to the measure Friday morning, state Democrat Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh slapped the lectern and repeatedly shouted: “Transgender people belong here, we need trans people, we love trans people.”
“You matter. You matter and I am fighting for you. I will not stop,” exclaimed Cavanaugh, who displays she/her pronouns in her Twitter bio. “I will not stop today, I will not stop tomorrow. You are loved. You matter. You belong here.”
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Cavanaugh’s shouting during the legislative session lasted for just under a minute.
Cavanaugh also railed against conservatives who voted for the hybrid bill — which includes protections for unborn children — and warned that people, medical professionals and businesses will leave the state over it.
“Your children are posting things on social media, your children are calling you, colleagues,” Cavanaugh said. “You have to live with your vote.… You have to live with the role that you play in history in the making today. You have to live with the fact that you vote to take away people’s rights. You have to live with that. The rest of us have to live with the implications of that, but you have to live with that.”
“If you didn’t sleep after Tuesday night, reflect on that. You don’t have to vote for this,” she added, just shortly before she called those who support the measure “weak.”
Cavanaugh also claimed that those who supported the measure “allowed” themselves to be “bought by the governor.”
Republican lawmakers wrangled just enough votes to end a filibuster and pass a bill with both measures. Gov. Pillen, who pushed for the bill and met with various lawmakers to shore up support, has promised to sign it into law.
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The 12-week abortion ban in the measure has exceptions for rape and incest. The bill wouldn’t allow transgender people under 19 years old to undergo gender surgery, with a few exceptions.
The state’s chief medical officer — a political appointee who is currently an ear, nose and throat doctor — would set rules for puberty blockers and hormone therapies for transgender minors in the state. There will be some exceptions for minors who were already receiving treatment before the ban was enacted.
Several Republicans voiced approval for the measure during the debate, including state Sen. Steve Erdman, who drew inconsistences in the arguments made by Democrats.
“Saying abortion is healthcare is like saying being raped is lovemaking,” Erdman said at one point.
Friday’s debate was briefly stopped when protesters in a chamber balcony stood and yelled obscenities at conservative lawmakers while throwing what appeared to be bloody tampons onto the floor. As lawmakers began voting, chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!” could be heard coming from outside the chamber.
At least six people were arrested at the Nebraska state capitol building after lawmakers passed the bill.
At least 17 states have enacted laws restricting or banning transgender procedures, hormones and therapies for minors, and proposals are pending before the governors of Texas and Missouri. Medical groups and advocates claim such restrictions are further marginalizing transgender youth and threatening their health.
North Carolina also passed a 12-week abortion ban this week, among a slew of restrictions enacted in states after the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion. Fourteen states now have bans throughout pregnancy.
Nebraska currently bans abortion around 20 weeks and is one of multiple states that has recently passed abortion and transgender laws.
Last month, a proposed six-week ban failed to advance.
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