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Nebraska senator with trans son joins filibuster after bill banning kids’ gender treatments is passed

An avowed “petty” Nebraska senator with a transgender child and “a grudge” has joined fellow Democrats in vowing to completely block the legislature until June after it voted for a bill banning gender-affirming care for kids.

Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt took to the chamber Wednesday to reveal why the “Let Them Grow” bill was so personal — and accuse supporters of the bill of stirring “satanic panic.”

“My son is trans,” she said of her 12-year-old child who she complained has been unable to get gender-affirming care. 

“And this bill, colleagues, is such an affront to me personally and would violate my rights to parent my child in Nebraska.”

Even before her colleagues voted to pass LB 574 on Thursday — leaving some opposing Democrats in tears — Hunt vowed to follow the filibuster started in February by Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, which was only halted this week in the hopes of blocking the trans bill.

Sen. Hunt spoke about her own “trans son” during the fiery debate.
Twitter / @NebraskaMegan

“If this bill passes, all your bills are on the chopping block, and the bridge is burned,” Hunt warned the chamber.

“No one in the world holds a grudge like me. And no one in the world cares less about being petty than me. I don’t care – I don’t like you,” she told her fellow senators, whom she also called “cowards” in a tweet.

Cavanaugh, a married mother of three, had already carried out an almost three-week filibuster over the bill after warning: “I will burn the session to the ground over this bill.”

She said she only paused it to record which lawmakers would “legislate hate against children” and support the bill banning hormone treatments, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for those under 18.

On Thursday, she promised to stick with her plan to filibuster the remainder of the legislature’s 90-day session, which ends on June 9.

“I will not give up on Nebraska children. Failure isn’t an option because, if I fail, I’m failing children, and I’m not going to fail children,” she tweeted of the bill she’d called trans “genocide.”

State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh prepares to speak in the debate.
Cavanaugh resumed her filibuster, which she only paused to debate the gender care bill.

Other lawmakers also vowed to join her and Hunt, including Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad and Omaha Sen. Jen Day.

Day had wept in the chamber Wednesday while reading a letter from a psychologist who claimed the bill “will result in the deaths of transgender and gender diverse adolescents, likely before the end of the school year.”

“I want all of you to go into the rotunda and look into the eyes of those parents and tell them that you’re voting for this bill knowing that it could potentially kill their child,” Day said through sobs.

Hunt meets with protesters outside the debate.
Hunt also spoke with protesters drawn to the fiery debate.
Twitter / @NebraskaMegan

Sen. John Fredrickson, the first openly gay man elected to the Nebraska Legislature, also broke down in tears before reading a letter from a constituent who said her son would likely have taken his own life had he not been able to get gender-affirming care as a teen.

Protesters had booed and cursed lawmakers after they supported the measures. 

“I am a ball of rage … I know so many people — so many kids — who will be hurt by this,” said Wrenn Jacobson, 29, of Lincoln. 

“They come for the kids first. Then they’ll come for the adults.”

The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Kathleen Kauth, who also has another bill that would ban trans people from using bathrooms and locker rooms or playing on sports teams that don’t align with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Republican Sen. Kathleen Kauth.
The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Kathleen Kauth.
Craig Chandler / University of NebraskaâLincoln

She accused the Democratic opponents of using “obnoxious hyperbole” and being “self-serving and childish” with the filibuster.

In an interview Wednesday, she cited “reliable studies” from Europe showing that kids with gender dysphoria “who are allowed to do watchful waiting, which is therapy without pushing them into any of the chemicals,” are 85% likely to “no longer consider themselves trans” after puberty.

“We want to get these kids every opportunity to let their body grow, to let their brain grow, to let things develop more fully and work through the issues they’re experiencing” before irreversible treatment, she said.

“This is a common-sense bill. You don’t allow children to direct their health care when it’s going to involve mutilating their bodies,” she added.

Her bill advanced on a 30-17 vote, with two lawmakers not voting. Although bills can advance with a simple majority, it takes 33 votes to end debate to overcome a filibuster. 

The Nebraska Legislature is currently made up of 32 registered Republicans and 17 registered Democrats — just enough for the minority to block bills they don’t like if they stick together.

In this case, Democratic Sen. Mike McDonnell voted with Republicans to end debate and later voted to advance the bill.

“There’s a world of difference between 9 and 19,” he said. “I think adult decisions should be made by adults.”

The bill will have to survive two more rounds of debate to pass in the unique one-house, officially nonpartisan Legislature. Republican Gov. Jim Pillen has said he will sign the bill into law if it reaches his desk.

With Post wires

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