Nebraska lawmakers to debate transgender student bathroom and sports team access bill.

The Nebraska Legislature stalled last year over objections to a bill banning gender-affirming care for under-19s. To avoid a repetition, sponsors of a parallel law barring transgender kids' access to toilets and sports teams deferred it until the end of the session.  

With five days left in the legislative session, it could overturn dozens of unpassed laws. “I wanted this session to go better than last year,” Omaha Democrat Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh said in the nonpartisan Legislature. “I won't let this happen for free. The cost is time. Period.”

Cavanaugh filibustered practically every bill before the body, even ones she supported, to kill the 2023 plan, which was altered to limit gender-affirming surgery for minors and restrict gender-affirming drugs and hormones. After the governor signed a 12-week abortion ban, it passed. Plaintiffs are challenging the hybrid law in court.  

Legislative Bill 575, the Sports and Spaces Act proposed by Republican Sen. Kathleen Kauth, was blocked for over a year before being approved out of committee Thursday. Students would have to use bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams that match their natal gender.  

Kauth, who wrote last year's gender-affirming limitations, called LB575 her top priority for this session despite Cavanaugh's threat to filibuster it again. Kauth got a boost this week when the state's Republican attorney general said the plan doesn't violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection provision.  

“We find no evidence that LB575 has been introduced to single out and harm transgender students as opposed to protect student privacy and female athletic opportunity,” Attorney General Mike Hilgers wrote. Cavanaugh accused Republicans of promoting wedge issue laws and flip-flopping on whether government should be a nanny state or remain out of people's private lives.  

“If you agree with parents, they know best. If you disagree with parents, you know best, she said. “You all fought for local control this morning, and now you want to take it from schools.”  

In a February Pew Research Center poll, 41% of public K-12 teachers felt the national discussion over sexual orientation, gender identity, and race education had hurt their work. Additionally, 71% of teachers stated they don't have enough control over public school curriculum, while 58% claimed their state government has too much.  

Sen. John Arch, Nebraska Legislature speaker, stated late Thursday that Kauth's bill would be considered Friday afternoon for four hours. The first of three rounds of debate a bill must pass usually lasts eight hours. However, Arch announced earlier this year that he would cut that in half for social wedge bills as Speaker.  

Cavanaugh declared readiness. “Get ready to hear my recipes, movie synopses and on and on,” she continued. We'll keep doing that till 575 dies.”  

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