Senator who voted for anti-trans bill that passed by one vote admits she wasn’t paying attention
A Nebraska Republican state senator who voted for a combined anti-trans and anti-abortion bill that passed by one vote in the legislature has admitted that she didn’t pay attention to the issue.
State Senator Christy Armendariz represents the 18th District in the state.
Writing for New York magazine, journalist Lila Shapiro said that the senator “led me to a bench in an empty hallway” to say that she “found it puzzling that a reporter from New York would come all the way to Nebraska to cover this affair”.
“I don’t watch the news or get the newspaper,” she told the magazine. “Is there anything going on I should be aware of?”
The writer told Ms Armendariz that other states have passed other similar bills restricting trans and women’s reproductive rights and that an appeals court on the federal level in the Nebraska circuit had ruled that one of them was unconstitutional.
“So is it a big widespread thing?” she asked the writer, adding that regular Nebraska residents were unaware of the issue.
“I knocked doors for a year, and nobody brought this up,” the senator said, adding that she wished that the legislation had never been brought to the floor.
For three months, a group of lawmakers in the state ground nearly all legislative business in the state to a halt, grabbing the nation’s attention with a remarkable filibuster to stifle a bill that would end gender-affirming care for young transgender people.
Late Tuesday 16 May, Republican lawmakers broke through, advancing a bill that not only bans gender-affirming care for trans people under 19 years old but also tacks on an amendment to outlaw abortion after roughly 10 weeks of pregnancy and hands the state’s GOP-appointed medical officer the authority to set the rules for affirming care for trans youth.
Hundreds of protesters filled the capital in Lincoln, standing outside the doors and in the gallery above lawmakers while chanting “one more vote to save our lives”; only one senator would have had to defect from supporters of the bill to kill the legislation.
The vote – on the 78th day of a 90-day session – followed a series of manoeuvres that opponents argued were bending and breaking the rules of the state legislature to hammer through the legislation and avert the filibuster, which would allow opponents to occupy their allotted time to speak the bill to death.
“What you are attempting to do today is the lowest of the absolute lows,” state Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, who spearheaded the filibuster, told Republican lawmakers.
“You literally have to cheat at every moment of this debate in every possible way … You are allowing it to happen,” she added. “You do literally have blood on your hands, and if you vote for it, you will have buckets.”
State Senator Megan Hunt, the first openly LGBT+ member of the state legislature and the mother of a trans child, lambasted lawmakers for their “escape routes” from the capitol to avoid facing protesters.
“If you can’t go out and face them, you are not worthy,” she said. “Your legacy is filth.”
Protesters surrounded the state capitol chambers in Lincoln again on 19 May, chanting “keep your bans off our bodies” and “save our lives” as lawmakers made their final round of votes on the bill, which passed 33-15. The bill reached the exact number of votes needed to pass.
Republican Governor Jim Pillen signed it into law on Monday.
“We are working to inspire Nebraskans to get in the game so that abortion is simply unthinkable in the state of Nebraska,” Mr Pillen said, according to WOWT.
He called the legislation “the most significant win for [the] social conservative agenda that over a generation has seen in Nebraska. I think that’s something we need to clap and shout about”.
At a show in Nebraska hours after the vote on Friday night, the artist Lizzo lambasted the legislation from the stage. “It really breaks my heart that there are young people growing up in a world that doesn’t protect them,” she said.
“Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. ... These laws are not real. You are what’s real, and you deserve to be protected,” she said.
“Hat tip to Senator Armendariz, who says she doesn’t know anything about the issue, doesn’t pay attention to current events, and wishes the bill she voted for hadn’t been introduced. It passed by 1 vote,” wrote Ari Kohen, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
“These are the people who devoted an entire legislative session to taking away people’s rights in the face of massive opposition from experts and ordinary citizens. They openly admit that none of their constituents mentioned this issue to them and they don’t know much about it,” he added. “We have a handful of legislators who care enough to listen and learn. And then we have the majority, who seem not to know or care what they’re doing as long as it feels right to them and they have the votes to do it. Awful.”
The Independent has requested comment from Ms Armendariz.