Sports and Spaces Act targets transgender students in Nebraska


Nebraska Unicameral Information Office

MURRAY, Neb. — On Feb. 13th, the Education Committee in the Nebraska Legislature held a marathon public hearing on LB575, the Sports and Spaces Act. This act, introduced by Millard State Senator Kathleen Kauth, would prohibit schools from allowing transgender students to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their gender identity and from participating in high school sports that match their gender identity.

LB575 was introduced alongside LB574, the Let Them Grow Act, which bans gender-affirming care for minors in Nebraska. LB574 was approved by the Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday night by a 4-2 vote. These bills are part of a nationwide push that targets transgender students. Numerous states including Iowa and Florida have enacted laws harmful to transgender students in the previous few years.

Justification for bills like this generally include sentiments that transgender students are a threat to all other students. It has been argued that a transgender woman participating in girl’s and women’s sports is unfair. Doctors, athletes, and coaches in opposition to these bills testified to the Education Committee that this claim is untrue.

Advocacy organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and OutNebraska have also rallied against this legislation. In a tweet the Women’s Fund of Omaha writes, “The attack on the dignity of transgender Americans is an attack on all Americans.” These organizations have committed to adamantly opposing these bills at every step of the process.

In the Legislature, Senators Megan Hunt and Maechala Cavanaugh of Omaha have slowed down the agenda in efforts to block these bills as well as LB626 which would ban abortion at six weeks. During a heated debate, Senator Maechala Cavanaugh ended her remarks by reminding LGBTQIA+ youth that they are valued and there are people in Nebraska fighting for them.

While this legislative battle is ongoing, a staggering 85 percent of Nebraska’s LGBTQIA+ youth have reported that recent politics in this state and around the country has harmed their well-being. This statistic is part of a comprehensive report from the Trevor Project which works to support the health and wellbeing of LGBTQIA+ youth. The report finds 50 percent of LGBTQIA+ youth in Nebraska considered suicide in 2022 including 58 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth. 22 percent of LGBTQIA+ youth in Nebraska attempted suicide. As well 73 percent experienced symptoms of anxiety and 65 percent experienced symptoms of depression.

These are tragic numbers. Yet instead of moving in a direction to reduce stigma and support students, some Nebraska lawmakers and numerous state legislatures around the country are moving in a direction of further intolerance. ​​

Transgender and nonbinary students live every day with the backdrop of legislators restricting, criminalizing, and policing their identities. When Senators discriminate against transgender students, they are not only telling these youth that there is something wrong or even criminal with who they are but they are putting their wellbeing and lives at risk. Nebraska lawmakers must oppose LB574 and LB575 and stand up for transgender and nonbinary students in Nebraska.