Democrat filibusters for three weeks and counting to block ‘painful’ anti-trans bill

State sen Machaela Cavanaugh

Democrat Machaela Cavanaugh is in her fourth week of filibustering every bill that comes before the Nebraska legislature.

Cavanaugh has promised to “burn the session to the ground” to prevent a bill which would ban gender-affirming care for those 18 and younger from becoming law.

She began to filibuster just over three weeks ago, on 23 February, holding up entirely unrelated bills so that the legislature can’t get to the anti-trans measure. To ‘filibuster’ is to talk for as long as possible in a bid to stop legislation from passing.  

If the bill isn’t passed by the end of the legislature’s session, on 9 June, it will fail.

As reported by NBC News, Cavanaugh said: “If this legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful, painful for everyone. 

“If you want to inflict pain upon our children, I am going to inflict pain upon this body, and I have nothing but time, and I am going to use all of it.”

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The bill Cavanaugh hopes to block aims to prevent those 18 and younger from receiving crucial gender-affirming health care, including puberty blockers.

If passed, the bill would also prohibit any institution or provider of gender-affirming care to minors from receiving state funding. 

‘I’m forcing their hand’

In an interview with MSNBC, Machaela Cavanaugh said that by filibustering she is attempting to make her colleagues choose between bills that target trans healthcare and other legislature. 

“So I’m just going to practically make sure that my colleagues have to make a choice about what it is they want to do, what our job is. 

“Is our job to legislate hate, or is our job to govern and work on tax cuts and work on the economy? So I’m forcing their hand,” Cavanaugh said. 

Even while she was suffering from strep throat, Cavanaugh filibustered. She added: “At the end of the day, this is going to hurt children. 

“I don’t care how sick I get. I don’t care how tired I am. I am not going to look back on this moment in time and say I didn’t do everything that I possibly could to fight for and protect children, especially our most vulnerable children, which are trans youth.”

Three bills advanced in three weeks due to Cavanaugh’s filibustering tactics

Clerk of the legislature, Brandon Metzler, said a delay like the one caused by Cavanaugh has only happened a couple of times in the past decade. 

Currently, only 26 bills have moved forward from the first of three rounds of debate needed to pass a bill in Nebraska. Usually by mid-March, Metzler said, two to three times the current number of bills would have been advanced. 

In fact, since Cavanaugh began her blockade, only three bills have advanced, AP News reported.

Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of LGBTQ+ advocacy group OutNebraska, said Cavanaugh’s effort has been greatly appreciated by the LGBTQ+ community. 

“We really see it as a heroic effort. It is extremely meaningful when an ally does more than pay lip service to allyship. She really is leading this charge.”

According to NBC News analysis, so far this year lawmakers in at least 24 states, including Nebraska, have introduced legislation that would restrict gender-affirming care for minors.