A pink, white, and blue transgender flag flying with sky behind it.

“I Will Burn This Session To the Ground”: We’re in Awe of the Nebraska Senator Filibustering for Trans Rights

Hello there, my new hero

Do you need a new role model or real-life hero to inspire you? Nebraska’s Democratic state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh was not on my radar until recently when she legislated her way straight into my heart by taking on her GOP colleagues via a three-week filibuster aimed at stopping the advancement of a hateful anti-trans bill that would ban gender-affirming care for Nebraskan residents under 19. She’s doing it for the trans kids, y’all.

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Cavanaugh’s filibuster (the practice of delaying or blocking a controversial vote by refusing to yield the floor BTW), effectively paused debate on every single bill before the legislative body, including an anti-abortion bill, as well as several other anti-LGBTQ bills, according to reporting by the Washington Post, but stopping LB574, the bill to take away gender-affirming, and sometimes life-saving care from trans youth, has been her priority. And she cares enough to spend three weeks of her life continually speaking on the state senate floor without yielding, despite the many other bills waiting to be debated.

“I will burn this session to the ground … I have nothing but time, and I am going to use all of it,” Cavanaugh said to her colleagues on the state Senate floor. We love a good threat when it comes from a good person working to do good. 

Earlier this week, an agreement was reached and Cavanaugh paused the filibuster so LB574 could be brought to the front of the debate queue. Thursday, the bill moved forward 30-16 mostly on party lines. According to reporting from The Advocate, the senator has plans to restart her filibuster and block any further movement because of the vote to advance.

What is it like filibustering for three straight weeks? In a recent interview with Vogue, Cavanaugh said, “It’s emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting. It takes a lot of brainpower. It takes a lot of stamina. Apparently, I’ve talked about things that I don’t even remember, like the plot of the movie Madagascar—I do not remember that conversation at all. But I saw it on TV, so it must be true.” 

It basically sounds like Cavanaugh just kept going and going, even after she went into a fugue state over this, which makes sense. I would probably just faint and ask for some chicken nuggies and prosecco after hour four. 

So what gave Caughanagh the drive and willpower to keep going? “This bill legislates hate and targets trans youth,” Cavanaugh told The Washington Post. “Legislating hate is not our job. Our job is to protect our children from the harm this bill could cause them.”

Shortly after the advancing vote on LB574, Cavanaugh tweeted, “I will not give up on Nebraska’s children. Failure isn’t an option because, if I fail, I’m failing children, and I’m not going to fail children.”

(featured image: Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images)

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Cammy Pedroja
Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.