What was at first a simple and largely-supported bill on liquor taxation between Nebraska state senators quickly turned into something entirely different. State senator Machaela Cavanaugh warned her colleagues she would ‘filibuster’ the debate for three weeks if they intended to pass a bill that would outlaw gender-affirming therapies for minors. This means that people under 18 years old would not have access to therapy, hormones, or puberty blockers, to relieve them of the pain caused by gender dysphoria.
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Trans rights and the Madagascar plot
Machaela Cavanaugh started by expressing her support of the taxation bill, before spending the next three days discussing anything but the bill. She mentioned her favourite Girl Scout cookies, Omaha’s best doughnuts, and most of all, the plot of the Madagascar animated film.
The anti-trans rights bill was discussed out of committee ahead of the taxation debate, and this led to Cavanaugh vowing to filibuster debates for three weeks in protest. Cambridge Dictionary gives the following definition of ‘filibuster’:
to make a long speech in order to delay or prevent a new law being made.
The senator has chosen to filibuster every single bill that passes through the committee, even the ones she supports. Filibustering is allowed indefinitely in the United States. The mother of three took the stand and defied her colleagues:
If this Legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful — painful for everyone. I will burn the session to the ground over this bill.
A successful filibuster
She has kept her word, and brought senate debates to a crawl by using all eight hours of debate she was allowed and introducing amendment after amendment, even during the week she had strep throat, which shows just how determined she is. March 15 marked half of the 90-day debate session, and not a single bill was passed thanks to Cavanaugh’s relentless efforts.
Nebraska bills against trans rights are, unfortunately, some of thousands that have been growing in the country in the last few months. Nebraska senators plan on forbidding trans or non-binary people from using bathrooms that don’t align with the gender on their birth certificate. Bans on gender-affirming care for minors have already been enforced in several Republican-led states such as Utah or South Dakota.
Nebraska's LGBTQ+ youth
Machaela Cavanaugh’s filibustering has drawn immense support and gratitude from LGBTQ+ organizations.
Cavanaugh cited a 2021 survey from the Trevor Project (a non-profit organization which raises awareness on LGBTQ+ suicide). The survey revealed that 58% of LGBTQ+ minors in Nebraska were considering suicide, and 1 in 5 say they have already attempted to take their own lives.
Machaela Cavanaugh's efforts have not only sparked immense support from LGBTQ+ organizations, but also from many Twitter users, with some people calling her a hero.
The senator who initiated the bill outlawing gender-affirming therapies for minors said she wants to ‘protect children’ and ‘save them from decisions they might regret as adults’. She also argued that gender-affirming care could have dangerous consequences on the long run, going against statements from the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Association, which all say these treatments are perfectly safe and can save lives by preventing suicides.
Last year, Nebraska Republicans weren’t able to overcome filibusters which prevented them from passing an abortion ban in the state. Machaela Cavanaugh said she will only stop once senators let go of this ‘hateful bill’.
CBS News: Nebraska lawmaker 3 weeks into filibuster over bill that would restrict trans health care