Critics Call Governor's New 'Common Sense' Order 'Ridiculous'

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen's order narrowly defines 'male' and 'female,' angering trans advocates
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 31, 2023 4:40 PM CDT
Critics Blast Governor's Order on 'Women's Rights'
Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen delivers his State of the State on Jan. 25 at the the state Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska.   (Anna Reed/Omaha World-Herald via AP, File)

This week, a second governor put his name to an executive order that more rigidly defines an individual's sex, in what he deems a boost to women's rights and what critics say is an attack on the transgender community. The AP reports that Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signed the order Wednesday directing schools and other state agencies to consider a person "female" or "male" according to the sex assigned to them at birth, with "female" defined as someone "whose biological reproductive system is designed to produce ova," and "male" as someone whose "biological reproductive system is designed to fertilize the ova of a female."

The term "transgender" isn't included in the order, and those definitions are ostensibly meant to be used for statistics-gathering purposes, such as for data on crime and health, but the order's overarching goal appears to be to keep transgender people out of certain spaces, which Pillen's own remarks back up. "It is common sense that men do not belong in women's-only spaces," he says 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."

The terms "woman," "girl," and "mother" are also tied to females only in Pillen's directive, while "man," "boy," and "father" are tied to males only. The Lincoln Journal Star notes that Pillen's order, which he calls the "Women's Bill of Rights," came down just a few days after ex-University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who's been a vocal detractor of trans athletes, met with him. Pillen's order, which goes into effect immediately, also comes after Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a similar directive earlier this month.

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Some Nebraska lawmakers slammed his move. "Offensive and ridiculous" is how independent Sen. Megan Hunt labeled it. "He should try saying this stuff to my face then we would see who's got what biological advantage." Democratic Sen. Jen Day echoed that sentiment, calling Pillen's directive "extremely disappointing," per KETV. "The governor has taken the opportunity to essentially put out an executive order that divides us," she said. "And it's ... beyond angering." Pillen's order will expire if other legislation in Nebraska passes on trans athletes. A bill featuring restrictions against such athletes stalled in the state Legislature earlier this year, but it looks set to come up for debate again in 2024. (More Nebraska stories.)

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