Nebraska Gov. Pillen is considering 2024 proposal for a legal definition of ‘sex’

By: - November 17, 2023 5:00 am

Gov. Jim Pillen, at right, speaks next to Riley Gaines on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in La Vista. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen is considering an agency’s request to prioritize a legal definition of “sex” through 2024 legislation.

Laura Strimple, communications director for Pillen, verified the Department of Administrative Services request and said that like all agency and policy proposals, it “remains under ongoing consideration” for Pillen’s 2024 priorities.

“The DAS bill proposal to ensure Nebraska law reflects a commonsense definition of men and women is a well-crafted suggestion by the agency,” Strimple said in a statement.

Gov. Jim Pillen speaks at the signing ceremony for LB 753, the Opportunity Scholarships Act, on May 30. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

In 2023, 20 of the 820 introduced bills came at Pillen’s request. This includes seven bills for the state budget and others to eliminate the levy authority of community college areas, change income tax rates, reform the formula for school aid and adopt the Opportunity Scholarships Act, which will be on the 2024 ballot after a successful referendum.

The DAS proposal must be introduced by one or more of the state’s 49 lawmakers, regardless if it is backed by Pillen. If introduced, it would join pending proposals on sex and gender identity, such as restricting drag performances or defining K-12 bathrooms, locker rooms and sporting teams on the basis of sex at birth.

Proposal is DAS ‘second priority’

State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha shared the DAS proposal Friday via X, formerly Twitter, which came through a nonprofit’s records request. Hunt told the Nebraska Examiner she could not disclose the nonprofit’s name at its request.

State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

In her tweet, Hunt blasted the DAS proposal as discriminatory and criticized it for being the agency’s “second priority” for 2024.

“Not workforce. Not growing our economy. Not reducing government waste,” Hunt said. “Just crotch watch.”

DAS’ mission is, “To grow opportunity through more effective, more efficient and customer-focused state government.”

Hunt, whose son is trans, has clashed with Pillen and fellow lawmakers amid mounting national legislative and executive acts against transgender and gender-nonconforming persons. Such actions include cracking down on pronouns in K-12 schools in neighboring Iowa or banning gender-neutral language in official government documents in the state of Arkansas.

Proposal follows national environment

Sarah Skinner, policy adviser to DAS Director Jason Jackson, drafted the proposal and said it is complementary to Pillen’s Aug. 30 executive order for a “Women’s Bill of Rights.” That order defines “male” and “female” as the development of someone’s reproductive system — Kansas, Tennessee and Oklahoma have adopted similar definitions.

Two of the state’s largest women’s rights groups — the Women’s Fund of Omaha and League of Women Voters of Nebraska — said this fall that Pillen’s executive order did not focus on needed priorities. Two conservative groups advocating for Nebraska women were supportive.

The DAS proposal would also provide direct authority and ensure accurate documentation for employee benefits, Skinner said, and thwart “activists’ attempts to redefine terminology.”

Skinner listed possible supporters as a “majority of Nebraskans,” the Nebraska Family Alliance and Nebraska Catholic Conference. She also listed likely opponents as the ACLU, Nebraska State Education Association, Women’s Fund, Planned Parenthood and OutNebraska. 

“No need to say it’s likely,” the ACLU of Nebraska said in a Nov. 10 tweet. “You can count on it.”

DAS officials, including Skinner, could not be reached for additional context.


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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a double major in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C. He reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan before joining the Nebraska Examiner staff as an intern.