Nebraska governor signs anti-trans bill defining men and women by reproductive organs

Men and women in Nebraska will be defined in strict medical terms according to their reproductive systems, under new anti-trans bill.

Nebraska’s Republican governor Jim Pillen has signed an executive order strictly defining sex as that assigned at birth. 

The order, signed on Wednesday (30 August), tells state agencies to characterise “female” and “male” as a person’s sex assigned at birth, which Pillen explained was part of ensuring that public areas are marked as single-sex, the Associated Press reported.

The order lays out strict biological definitions for the sexes, with “female” meaning a person “whose biological reproductive system is designed to produce ova” and “male” a person whose “biological reproductive system is designed to fertilise the ova of a female”.

In a statement, Pillen said: “It is common sense that men do not belong in women’s-only spaces.

“As governor, it is my duty to protect our kids and women’s athletics, which means providing single-sex spaces for women’s sports, bathrooms, and changing rooms.” 

Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of LGBTQ+ organisation OutNebraska said in a statement: “We are deeply disturbed and angered at our governor’s continued attempts to pit two intertwined struggles against one another, all under the guise of ‘protecting’ women. 

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“Transgender rights and women’s rights are not at odds. They are a collective fight for self-determination and control of our own bodies.

“Let us be clear: this executive order is a thinly veiled attack on transgender women and girls. There is no doubt that this order will erode civil rights for all Nebraskans by creating an environment where ANY woman or girl’s femininity can be called into question.”

A person holds up a sign during an LGBTQ+ demonstration that reads 'gender-affirming care saves lives' in the colours of the trans pride flag
A person holding a sign reading ‘Gender Affirming Care Saves Lives’ at a rally. (Getty)

The executive order follows a bill passed in Nebraska in May which restricts gender-affirming care for trans young people, with a 12-week abortion ban included in the bill. The law passed despite efforts to block the bill going on for over three months.

Nebraska Democrat Megan Hunt had been filibustering the bill banning gender-affirming care for trans youth months before the final vote. 

Hunt, who lawmakers accused of having a conflict of interest on LGBTQ+ issues because she has a trans son, told other Nebraska lawmakers as the law advanced: “This bill harms me in an unforgivable way, and this is a line that you don’t cross with me.

“If you cross it today, you’re staying on the other side of it, because you have done a reputable harm, and you’re doing harm to … Nebraska as well.”

She added for those who would vote for the bill: “Don’t say hi to me in the hall, don’t ask me how my weekend was … don’t send me Christmas cards.

“I don’t care. I don’t like you.”

When the executive order defining sex was signed by the governor on Wednesday, Hunt said on Twitter: “The truth is, no executive order can erase trans people. They have always existed and always will.”

She added in a separate tweet: “I don’t respect people who are part of this discriminatory movement to push LGBTQ ppl back into the shadows.

“There’s no ‘trans debate’ or ‘trans question’. There’s just trans people and people who don’t want there to be trans people.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), over 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in the US in 2023 so far, including 225 aiming to specifically restrict the rights of trans people.

The anti-LGBTQ+ laws have led Canada to issue a travel advisory for LGBTQ+ people visiting the US, while HRC warned those visiting Florida about its anti-LGBTQ+ laws back in May.

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