For the past three weeks, Nebraska State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh has been on an endless run, speaking on the Senate floor on just about every topic: legislation, fish fries, Girl Scout cookies and the movie "Madagascar."
The state's non-partisan, single-chamber legislature is ruled by Republican lawmakers, however, it takes 33 votes to overcome a filibuster, and the legislature has only 32 Republicans.
Now, Cavanaugh is heading into her fourth week of fighting an anti-LGBTQ bill that would ban transgender health care for people under the age of 19. According to a representative from Speaker of the Legislature Sen. John Arch's office, debate on the bill is set to begin on Tuesday, and is being brought to the floor sooner thanks to a deal between Cavanaugh and Arch.
Nebraska is one of at least 23 states considering restrictions on gender-affirming care.
“It's a parental rights violation. As a parent, I'm opposed to any government taking away my ability to make medical decisions for my child,” Cavanaugh told ABC News in an interview. “But in addition to that, it's an assault on trans youth and their health care. And it's going to result in extraordinarily negative outcomes for our trans youth.”
LB 574 would ban puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries – the last of which are done only on a case-by-case basis on adolescents, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Gender-affirming hormone therapy has been shown on average to improve the mental health and reduce the risk of negative outcomes, including the risk of suicidality, of transgender adolescents and teenagers, according to recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Major national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and over 20 more organizations support gender-affirming care as generally safe, effective, beneficial and medically necessary with appropriate care.
Sen. Kathleen Kauth, the bill’s sponsor, has argued that her bill is intended to protect children.
“Children deserve to know that their body isn't something that needs to be fixed,” Kauth said during a March 1 debate on the bill. “They deserve to grow up whole and they deserve to be given a chance at life as an adult before that is taken away from them by these medical practices.”
At least 427 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced or considered in 2023 alone, according to the ACLU.
Nebraska itself is facing at least four, including a trans sports ban, a ban on people under 21 attending drag shows, and a bill that would allow doctors to deny performing elective medical treatment based on personal beliefs.
“This is not our job,” said Cavanaugh. “This is not what we should be doing. We should not be legislating hate. We were not sent here to legislate hate. We were sent here to do the business of the state, which is tax policy, and budgets; there's so much work to be done to address the economic crisis that we are all in in this country.”