A Nebraska bill to ban transgender students from the bathrooms and sports of their choice fails

LINCOLN, Neb.– A bill that would ban transgender students from school bathrooms, locker rooms and sports teams that match their gender identity failed to gain enough votes to advance in heavily conservative Nebraska on Friday.

Bill 575, dubbed the Sports and Spaces Act by author Sen. Kathleen Kauth, would have limited students to teams and facilities for the gender they were assigned at birth. An amended version would have gone a step further by banning students from taking male hormones on girls’ teams, even if they were assigned female at birth, effectively banning transgender men from all sports competitions.

The bill needed 33 votes to end a filibuster and failed by a 31-15 margin, drawing cheers from protesters outside the chamber. Sens. Tom Brandt and Merv Riepe, who initially co-sponsored the bill and were expected to support it, abstained.

With just four days left in the legislative session, this year’s bill is dead.

The sudden re-emergence of this session temporarily threw the legislature into turmoil. It had been stalled for more than a year before it was suddenly voted out of committee on Thursday and scheduled for debate on Friday.

Kauth touted the measure as protecting women’s sports and said allowing transgender women to play on women’s teams “creates a significant barrier for female athletes to participate in sports.”

She said there is “a significant difference in sporting performance between the sexes” and that “this bill protects gender inequality.”

The debate became contentious early on, with Omaha Senator Megan Hunt calling out Kauth by name.

“This is not about protecting women,” said Hunt, who has been open about his bisexuality. “It’s about the danger and power of the imagination of a fanatic, Senator Kauth, and those who would support a bill like this.”

After another senator complained, she was asked by the speaker of the legislature to refrain from casting aspersions on fellow lawmakers. That prompted Hunt to invite her colleagues to censor her.

“Do you know how hard it is to be a strange child?” she asked. “You are being bullied. You get beat up sometimes. And bills like LB575 only reinforce that.”

Many Republican officials have tried to limit the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans in recent years, including with policies like the Nebraska law’s sports and restroom restrictions. Conservatives’ national momentum has come as more and more young people identify as LGBTQ+.

At least 24 states have laws banning transgender women and girls from participating in certain women’s or girls’ sports competitions, including five of the six states bordering Nebraska: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Eleven states, including Iowa and Kansas, have passed laws banning transgender girls and women from girls’ and women’s restrooms in public schools and in some cases in other government facilities.

The failure of the Nebraska bill came as a surprise, given Republicans’ dominance of state government and last year’s passage of the companion bill, also by Kauth, which banned gender-affirming surgery for anyone under 19 and gender-affirming drugs and medications severely restricted. hormones for minors.

That measure was passed after a 12-week abortion ban and signed by the governor. A lawsuit against the hybrid law is currently pending in the courts.

In Nebraska, a supermajority of 33 of the Legislature’s 49 members is needed to end debate on a filibustered bill. The legislature is officially nonpartisan, but lawmakers identify themselves as Republican, Democratic or independent and tend to vote along party lines. Republicans have 33 seats.

Sens. Brandt and Riepe, both Republicans, expressed doubt during Friday’s debate whether a measure to restrict access to bathrooms and sports for transgender students was necessary. Brandt noted that the state athletic association already has a policy regulating competition among transgender students.

Riepe said he changed his mind after meeting transgender families in his district. The bill, he said, was intended to “solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”