Nebraska senator who voted for anti-trans, anti-abortion bill says she wasn’t paying attention

A photo of Republican senator Christy Armendariz outside by a Nebraska road.

A Nebraska senator voted to strip transgender people of their rights despite having paid no attention to trans issues.

Republican state senator Christy Armendariz admitted that she doesn’t watch the news or get the newspaper after being shocked that a journalist from New York magazine attended a hearing on Legislative Bill 574.

The bill, known as the Let Them Grow Act, bans under-19s from accessing vital gender-affirming care, including physically reversible puberty blockers, by threatening any medical organisation that provides them with lawsuits.

It also includes a ban on gender-affirming surgeries for trans youth despite no healthcare organisation anywhere permitting operations to be done on under-15s. Teenagers aged between 15 and 18 are only referred for operations under exceptionally rare circumstances.

Lawmakers also amended the bill to include a 12-week abortion ban after similar proposed legislation was blocked by a Republican, who abstained from voting.

LB574 was approved by governor Jim Pillen, also a Republican, on Monday (22 May) despite the several-month-long filibuster by Democrats Megan Hunt, who has a trans son, and Machaela Cavanaugh.

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Prior to the bill’s passing, Hunt urged lawmakers to “love your family more than you hate mine” when voting on the bill, while condemning an investigation into accusations that she has a conflict of interest because of her son.

A picture of Megan Hunt speaking at her podium in the Nebraska state capitol.
Nebraska Democrat Megan Hunt had been filibustering the bill banning affirming healthcare for trans youth. (Twitter/@ErinInTheMorn)

During that session, journalist Lila Shapiro reported that she was approached by Armendariz, who said she was shocked that “a reporter from New York would come all the way to Nebraska to cover this affair”.

She added: “I don’t watch the news or get the newspaper… is there anything I should be aware of?”

After being told by Shapiro of the significant legislative backlash against trans Americans across state legislatures, Armendariz said: “So this is a widespread thing?”

In her article, Shapiro wrote that, as far as the senator could tell, Nebraskans didn’t know about the issue or didn’t care.

“I knocked on doors for a year, and nobody brought this up,” the senator is quoted as saying, noting that she wished the legislation hadn’t been brought to the floor.

Commenting on the article, political scientist Ari Kohen sarcastically wrote: “Hat tip to senator Armendariz, who says she doesn’t know anything about the issue, doesn’t pay attention to current events, and wishes the bill she voted for hadn’t been introduced. It passed by one vote.”

Megan Hunt says she lost ‘so much’ following anti-trans bill’s passing

In an address following the vote, Hunt said she had lost “so much” in the session in terms of relationships with House members, but had gained awareness of LGBTQ+ support in the state.

“You are more radical than Nebraskans,” she added. “You should know that there’s going to be a lawsuit if you pass this bill, with numerous plaintiffs, and the taxpayers are going to pay for that.”

While no lawsuit has been filed as yet, experts from the American Civil Liberties Union have said legal action is incredibly likely.

Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign signalled opposition to the bill, with its state legislative director, Cathryn Oakley, saying Republican lawmakers, as well as governor Pillen, had “ignored the pleas of pro-equality legislators”.

She added: “By enacting the Let Them Grow Act – a painfully ironic title – transgender and non-binary children in Nebraska will now find it even more difficult to grow up as their healthy, authentic selves.

“Age-appropriate, medically necessary gender-affirming care is life-saving healthcare. Period.

“The governor’s decision to also sign a 12-week abortion ban into law further places him at odds with the will of Americans and most Nebraskans.”