The deputy stops a filibuster when agreeing to discuss a trans-law

A lawmaker who stalled the Nebraska Legislature for weeks to protest a bill that would ban gender confirmation therapies for minors has ended his persistent filibuster in a deal that will prompt lawmakers to debate the bill next week.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, D-Omaha, had staged a filibuster on every bill before the Legislature — even ones she supported — since late February to protest the bill. Introduced by a freshman lawmaker and backed by far-right conservatives, the bill would ban gender-affirming therapies such as hormone treatment and gender-affirming surgery for those 18 and younger.

Kavanaugh began his efforts as the bill moved out of committee, filing amendment after amendment and spending as much time as Nebraska rules allow at the microphone to hold bills hostage on the legislative floor. She said she would continue to do so until the end of the 90-day session.

“I’m going to burn this session to the ground because of this bill,” Cavanaugh said at the time.

By the middle of Wednesday’s session, no bills had passed, and only a handful had advanced past the first of three rounds of debate, thanks to Cavanaugh’s relentless broaching.

But on Thursday, Speaker of the Legislature Sen. John Arch announced that an agreement had been reached to end the filibuster after Kavanaugh approached him seeking a compromise. Cavanaugh agreed to pause his filibustering if Arch agreed to push the trans therapy bill to the front of the queue. Debate on the bill will begin Tuesday when the legislature reconvenes after a long weekend break.

“We both agreed that it would be best to stop talking about other bills and rather just discuss the bill itself,” said Arch.

Cavanaugh said early in the process that he hoped to prevent the bill from reaching the legislative floor for debate. But by Wednesday, she wanted a vote to record which lawmakers would “legislate hate against children.”

The deal is likely a sign that Kavanaugh believes he has the votes to reject the bill when a vote, expected Thursday, takes place. If the bill advances, she will resume running each bill for the rest of the session, she told several news outlets.

The Nebraska bill and another that would bar transgender people from using restrooms and locker rooms or playing on sports teams that don’t match the gender listed on their birth certificates are among approximately 150 bills targeting transgender people which were introduced into state legislation this year. Bans on gender-affirming care for minors have already been enacted this year in some Republican-led states, including South DakotaUtah and Mississippi. Arkansas and Alabama have bans that have been temporarily blocked by federal judges.

Big bill in Kentucky that bans care for gender-affirming minors was rushed through the legislative process this week by Republicans and passed Thursday. It is expected to survive the governor’s promised veto.

As in those states, conservative lawmakers dominate in Nebraska. But the Nebraska legislature is unique in several ways: It is officially nonpartisan and a unicameral body with only 49 legislators. Although bills can win approval with a simple majority, 33 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster. The Nebraska Legislature currently consists of 32 registered Republicans and 17 registered Democrats — enough for the minority to block bills they don’t like if they stay together.

LGBTQ advocacy group OutNebraska has called on opponents of the bill to show up en masse at the state Capitol next week wearing purple, blue, pink and/or white to fill the chamber’s gallery.

Arch made his own call ahead of next week’s debate, noting that passions on both sides would be high.

“Colleagues, these issues will make us behave ourselves in the remaining days,” he said. “Society expects nothing less and we should expect nothing less from each other. Let us measure our words carefully and demonstrate statesmanship in the days ahead.

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