Last week, Nebraska Republican Gov. Jim Pillen signed an executive order that defines a person’s gender as based on their biological sex and unable to be changed under state law.
Dubbed the “Women’s Bill of Rights,” the order seeks to effectively erase the existence of transgender identity from law, directing all state agencies, boards, and commissions to only recognize a person’s male or female assigned sex at birth for legal and statistical purposes.
Under the executive order, state agencies would be barred from recognizing a person — even one who had undergone surgical transition, or one who had had their name and gender legally changed by a court order — according to their gender identity.
The order defines a “female” as a “person whose biological reproductive system is developed to produce ova” and a “male” as a “person whose biological reproductive system is developed to fertilize the ova of a female.” The order also defines several gender-specific terms, including “woman,” “girl,” “man,” “boy,” “mother,” and “father.”
Pillen has claimed the executive order is needed to ensure that women can succeed and thrive in single-sex activities or spaces and to protect the “safety” and bodily autonomy of women in multi-user public facilities where they have the expectation of privacy.
“It is common sense that men do not belong in women’s only spaces,” Pillen said in a statement. “As Governor, it is my duty to protect our kids and women’s athletics, which means providing single-sex spaces for women’s sports, bathrooms, and changing rooms.”
Pillen’s order is nearly identical to a similar executive order signed by Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt last month, and legislation passed in Kansas and Tennessee defining a person’s biological sex, as identified at birth, as fixed and binary. The language of those acts was drafted by the conservative Independent Women’s Voice and Independent Women’s Law Center along with the radical feminist organization Women’s Liberation Front, reports the Nebraska Examiner.
Pillen signed the executive order on the day that Nebraska broke the world record for the highest attendance at a women’s sporting event, with over 92,000 spectators filling the stands of Memorial Stadium in Omaha to watch a women’s volleyball tournament.
State Sen. Jen Day lamented the timing of the order and accused Pillen of sowing divisiveness.
“We have this really historic day in women’s athletics here in Nebraska, and particularly Husker women’s athletics, where so many Nebraskans are gathered together,” Day said. “And the governor has taken the opportunity to essentially put out an executive order that divides us. And it’s just beyond angering and disappointing.”
Pillen’s order takes effect immediately and will only expire if the state passes a law restricting participation in sports based on biological sex and prescribing situations when single-sex services or facilities should be provided.
A bill to ban transgender athletes from sports teams, bathrooms, or locker rooms designated for women was proposed earlier this year, but failed to pass out of the unicameral legislature’s Education Committee.
The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Kathleen Kauth, has praised the executive order and hopes that it will provide the impetus for her bill to past in next year’s legislative session.
State Sen. Megan Hunt, a bisexual and the mother of a transgender child, who was one of two lawmakers who filibustered a bill to bar doctors from prescribing gender-affirming treatments to transgender youth this past session, called the order “offensive and ridiculous.”
Hunt expressed concerns that the executive order might impact the state’s ability to receive federal funding, noting that funding for domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers has stipulations to protect transgender survivors.
“I guess that Gov. Pillen probably hates the fact that trans people would ever be protected or safe anywhere in Nebraska, but that’s how it works today,” Hunt told the Examiner. “And by putting this kind of messaging out, by making this part of his official policies and positions of his administration, he’s putting funding for those services in danger in Nebraska.”
She noted that the loss of such services would inevitably hurt those who are not transgender “more than anybody else.”
“Unfortunately, the Governor took advantage of this historic day in which many Nebraskans are gathered together to celebrate and honor women’s athletics, and chose to divide us,” Hunt wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “The truth is, no executive order can erase trans people. They have always existed and always will.”
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