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Nebraska Lawmaker Enters Third Week of Filibustering to Block Anti-Trans Bills

Democratic state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh has even filibustered through a bout of strep throat to keep her promise.

An eagle statue is pictured outside the state capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A Nebraska state lawmaker has filibustered every piece of legislation that has been brought up for consideration in the state’s unicameral legislature, fulfilling a vow she made three weeks ago to do so until Republicans agree to drop legislation seeking to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth and abortion rights in the state.

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D) initially promised in late February to filibuster for as long as the rules allowed her to for every bill that came up for a vote, even if it was on an issue that she was supportive of, in order to demonstrate her fierce opposition to those other bills.

The anti-abortion measure would ban almost all abortions in the state after a supposed “fetal heartbeat” is detected — phrasing that physicians specializing in reproductive health say is an inaccurate depiction of cardiac activity in an embryo or fetus, as sounds heard early on in a pregnancy, through an ultrasound, don’t indicate a heart has actually developed. The anti-trans bill would ban physicians from providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth in the state, which can often be life-saving for those who receive it.

“If this legislature collectively decides that legislating hate against children is our priority, then I am going to make it painful; painful for everyone,” Cavanaugh said in her floor speech announcing the planned filibusters last month. “Because if you want to inflict pain upon our children, I am going to inflict pain upon this body.”

“I have nothing, nothing but time. And I am going to use all of it,” she added.

True to her word, Cavanaugh has filibustered every bill that has reached the floor of the state legislature.

Filibusters can only last eight hours, maximum, according to the rules of the state Senate. Still, her promise has led to a near-standstill in the legislative body.

So far in the legislative session, only 26 bills have advanced through the first of three rounds of debate that are required before a bill can be voted on. Ordinarily, that number would be two to three times higher, clerk of the legislature Brandon Metzler told The Associated Press. Only three bills have advanced in the three weeks since Cavanaugh started filibustering.

Cavanaugh has spent her time on the Senate floor discussing subjects relating to the bills she’s blocking, as well as discussing the bills she’s seeking to see tabled. She has also discussed Girl Scout Cookies, the best doughnuts in her home city of Omaha, and the plots of animated movies during her filibusters.

Cavanaugh has shown no signs of stopping at this time — she has filibustered through a week when she had strep throat, demonstrating her commitment to her cause, and continues to tweet posts suggesting she intends to carry on beyond this week.

“Another week fighting for Trans Youth,” she tweeted on Monday.

LGBTQ advocates in the state are lauding her efforts. “We really see it as a heroic effort,” said Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of LGBTQ advocacy group OutNebraska. “It is extremely meaningful when an ally does more than pay lip service to allyship. She really is leading this charge.”

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