- There has been a record number of anti-LBGTQ bills introduced in state legislatures this year, and state senator are doing what they can to stop hateful change.
- Nebraska Democratic state senator Machaela Cavanaugh is protesting proposal LB574, or the “Let Them Grow Act”
- Under the proposed bill, physicians would be barred from providing gender-affirming procedures and care for Nebraska residents younger than 19.
Nebraska State Senator Machaela Cavanaugh refuses to “legislate hate.” That’s why the Democrat has been on a six weeks-long filibustering mission to prevent the Nebraska Legislature from passing a bill banning gender-affirming healthcare for transgender Nebraskans under the age 19.
Cavanaugh, who assumed office in 2019, is determined to prevent Nebraska from joining the current tsunami of Republican-led states outlawing the standard healthcare for transgender teens that has long been recommended by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“This is an attack on trans children, and if I weren’t doing this, then I wouldn’t be doing my job, and I’d be complacent in this attack, and I don’t think that any of us should be complacent in this,” Cavanaugh told HollywoodLife.com in an EXCLUSIVE interview. “This is a war against the LGBTQ community. It is a national war, and I cannot, in my position, sit on the sidelines, and watch these kids get hurt.”
And furthermore, Cavanaugh, 44, a parent herself of three young children, is appalled that Nebraska Bill LB574, ironically titled the “Let Them Grow Act,” prevents the parents of trans young people in Nebraska, from making their own decisions about their child’s healthcare. Healthcare decisions that have traditionally always been made by parents with advice from their child’s physician as well as taking into account their own child’s feelings.
“This is a parent’s rights issue because they [children under 19] cannot receive this care without their parents participating in it and supporting it and authorizing it. And so we are legislating away from parental decision-making on medical care just because someone doesn’t like what the medical care is,” Cavanaugh explains. “Obviously, this is not a new idea, that’s the entire abortion debate—taking away rights to medical care because people didn’t agree with the medical care. This is just another way of taking away parental rights, and I don’t understand why anybody would want to do that.”
What Senator Cavanaugh is referring to here is that the proposed law in Nebraska would outlaw young people under the age of 19 from receiving what OASH—The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health—describes as “a supportive form of healthcare, which consists of an array of services that may include medical, surgical, mental health, and non-medical services for transgender and non-binary people.” And which states that, “For transgender and nonbinary children and adolescents, early gender-affirming care is crucial to overall health and well-being.”
And to be clear, there are very few gender-affirming surgeries performed on people under the age of 18 in the U.S., according to The Washington Post, despite the hysterical rhetoric from Republican politicians across the country claiming that this is widespread.
“Genital surgery should not be carried out until, 1. patients reach the legal age of maturity to give consent for medical procedures in a given country,” states the World Professional Association For Transgender Health’s Standard Of Care.
In other words, while Republican legislators from Nebraska to Kentucky to Arkansas and Utah claim to be “protecting” children from harm by passing bans on gender-affirming care, they are ignoring the recommendations for that care from all reputable medical sources. And the party, which has championed “parental rights” to intervene in the education of their children, is ironically making it illegal for the same parents to obtain care for their transgender children. Senator Cavanaugh admits that she is baffled by her Republican colleagues’ determination to pass LB574, the “Let Them Grow Act.”
“They say that they’re protecting kids by taking away parental rights to make medical choices for their children,” she points out. Instead she believes that Republican lawmakers in Nebraska have a very nefarious goal in mind.”I think that people that are supporting this type of legislation are committed to fear-mongering and to ostracizing the LGBTQ population.”
She also doesn’t think that they will stop with banning gender-affirming care for Nebraska’s young people. It’s just the beginning of their mission. “This is step one,” she warns. “First we ban it for children, then we ban it. We start with children under the guise of that we are taking care of children, and then we’re going to take care of ‘people.’ People can’t make these choices themselves. Just like women can’t make reproductive healthcare choices themselves. We will systemically go through eradicating the trans community.”
In order to prevent the passage of LB574, which bans the gender-affirming administration of puberty-blocking drugs, hormone treatments, and any gender-affirming surgeries for young people, Cavanaugh has embarked on the tactic of filibustering every single piece of proposed legislation 6 weeks ago, so nothing can get done until the bill is withdrawn.
Taking away healthcare rights from trans people in Nebraska – and across the country – is a violation of human rights. Plain and simple.#DontLegislateHate pic.twitter.com/75KD9Dra8z
— Senator Machaela Cavanaugh (@senatormachaela) April 1, 2023
“What I’m doing is asking the legislature to decide what it is that we want to do this year, what is our agenda, and is legislating hate our priority?” Senator Cavanaugh told ABC News on April 3. “The budget, childcare tax credits, tax cuts, the economy. These are the things that I believe the legislature should be focused on, not legislating hate, and I’m asking my colleagues to join me in that conversation. So if that means that I have to slow things down and filibuster bills until we can come to some consensus that this is not who we are as a state, then that’s what I’m willing to do.”
The “Let Them Grow Act” was introduced by Nebraska State Senator Kathleen Kauth from Omaha, and Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen has been supportive of the legislation. Cavanaugh doesn’t think that the bill has enough votes to pass yet, but she does believe that another bill, restricting transgender people in Nebraska to using the bathrooms of the sex that they were assigned at birth, will pass.
Her Democratic colleagues in the Senate have been fully supportive of her filibuster and goal. However, since she began, it’s become public that one of her colleagues, Senator Megan Hunt, who is Nebraska’s first openly queer state legislator, is the parent of 12-year-old Ash Homan, who is a transgender boy. Ash actually testified in front of Nebraska’s legislature imploring lawmakers not to outlaw gender-affirming care for the state’s youth like himself. “People introducing and passing these laws underestimate how much a child knows about their own body and their own brain.” His mother, Senator Hunt, has now joined Cavanaugh’s filibuster. “This bill harms me in an unforgivable way,” she told The New York Times.
Despite the Republican efforts to pass a ban on gender-affirming care for Nebraska’s transgender youth, Cavanaugh insists “there is not broad support for this in the state… Our medical community is certainly in an uproar over it. They have come in opposition to these bills. Nebraska’s a red state. We have a majority of Republicans in this state. So when people are coming in opposition to this from the medical community, these are Republicans coming and opposing this. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is an assault on a population and a medical profession,” Cavanaugh points out.
It’s an assault unfortunately that is occurring in virtually every red state across the country. Nebraska is one of at least 23 states considering these restrictions. GOP-dominated state legislatures are virtually all passing or in the process of passing similar legislation. The playbook of the laws is so similar from state to state that you have to wonder if there is a right-wing legal organization literally writing the proposed legislation for Republican lawmakers across the country.
There are about 150 bills this year targeting transgender people throughout the country, according to the Human Rights Campaign. There are more than 400 anti-LGBTQ bills being considered in states as well, according to the ACLU. To put this in perspective, only 1.6 million people who are ages 13 and older —a mere 0.6% out of the U.S. population of 332 million—identify as transgender, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
Broken down, this includes 1.4% of 13-17 year-olds (300,000 total) and 0.5% of adults (about 1.3 million people). That’s a lot of laws and effort to restrict the rights of a very tiny minority group of Americans, who also happen to be extremely vulnerable and at high risk of depression and suicide.
The reason that trans young people and their families seek gender-affirming care is that “research demonstrates that gender-affirming care improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender diverse children and adolescents, according to OASH, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.
That’s because many transgender children and teens suffer from a debilitating condition called gender dysphoria, “a sense of unease because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity—a sense of unease or dissatisfaction that may be so intense it can lead to depression and anxiety and have a harmful impact on daily life,” according to the British National Health Service.
In fact, 59% of transgender boys and 48 % of transgender girls 13-24 have considered suicide in the past year and 22% of transgender boys and 12% of transgender girls have actually attempted suicide in the past year, according to The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey of 34,000 LGBTQ youth across the U.S.
Yet, despite the research and statistics that demonstrate how at risk trans youth are and how much they need gender-affirming care, Nebraska Republican lawmakers claim “they’re protecting kids,” by potentially passing Bill LB274, says Senator Cavanaugh. “I know that what they say is that they’re protecting kids. And I say, they’re not. They’re hurting kids,” she insists.
So is the senator hearing from families with trans kids, that they will leave the state in order to protect their children? “Yes, and of course, they will. What parent would not leave the state? If my child needs medical care, and they cannot receive it, I am not going to stay here. I mean, that’s a no-brainer for parents,”.
Says Cavanaugh: “Some are making plans already.”
To help protect LGBTQ+ Youth, donate to Senator Cavanuagh’s new PAC: DontLegislateHate.org.Click to Subscribe to Get Our Free HollywoodLife Daily Newsletter to get the hottest celeb news.