On April 26, Nebraska Sen. Megan Hunt (D), the state’s first out bisexual senator, was informed that she was under an official investigation because of a complaint filed by Omaha-based attorney David Begley alleging that Hunt had a financial conflict of interest to speak and vote against anti-trans legislation because she has a transgender child.
Specifically, Begley alleged that Hunt, who has vocally opposed LB 574, the so-called “Let Them Grow Act,” a bill which would prohibit gender-affirming care for trans youth, would have a “financial benefit” if the bill did not become law because Hunt and her family depend on Medicaid to provide insurance for her child’s gender-affirming care.
Hunt has stated that Begley “is using the legal system that we have in our state to stop corruption, to increase transparency, to hold governments accountable, and using it to harass a member of the legislature who you all know is trying to do the right thing, is trying to parent her child in a way that keeps that child alive.”
State law requires that public officials disclose potential conflicts of interest that are reasonably foreseeable and distinguishable from a benefit received by the general public, Accountability and Disclosure Commission Executive Director Frank Daley has explained. A conflict of interest is defined by the commission as “a financial benefit or detriment to the public official or public employee, a member of his or her immediate family or business with which he or she is associated.”
Senators, including Republicans, have criticized the complaint and have pointed out that by Begley’s logic in the complaint, any senator who votes on a tax bill as a taxpayer or speaks on a bill that would affect family because they have a family would be subject to a conflict of interest.
Georgetown University policy professor Don Moynihan has pointed out that similar conflict of interest standards have not been “applied to legislators who justify censorship in schools because of concern about their kids or grandkids,” alluding to the escalating attack on academic freedom across the country.
Democratic senators, including Hunt, were part of an almost two-month filibuster, the longest in the state’s history, to stop LB 574, making the senators heroes to the transgender community. Hunt and Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D) have vowed to “burn this session to the ground” over LB 574. “If this bill passes, all of your bills are on the chopping block and the bridge is burned,” Hunt said.
During floor debate on LB 574, Hunt revealed that the legislation was personal to her because she has a transgender son who, if the bill passed, would not be able to access the healthcare he needs.
“This bill, colleagues, is such an affront to me personally, and would violate my rights to parent my child in Nebraska,” Hunt said. “You literally don’t know what you are talking about. You probably don’t even know a trans person.”
While the filibuster has brought the legislative session in the state to a standstill, the state legislature has still moved forward with bills targeting abortion access and gender-affirming care. Hunt has stated that the recent complaint filed against her is an attempt to harass her. “The point isn’t that I could gain financially if my kid has rights,” she said. “The point is the harassment.”
State Sen. John Cavanaugh (D) of Omaha has contended that the complaint is a “deliberate and clear attempt” to intimidate legislators in the state from continuing to fight against bills that attack reproductive access and LGBTQ rights in the state
This complaint comes as multiple democratic state legislators have been censored and expelled after speaking out against gun violence and anti-trans legislation. “We are in the midst of a disturbing trend of lawmakers all over the country facing discipline, silencing, and censure for vocalizing their support for LGBTQ+ people or progressive issues,” Hunt said.
Alejandra Caraballo, a clinical instructor at Harvard Law’s Cyberlaw Clinic, responded that this trend of state representatives that stand up for the transgender community being targeted is a warning sign of fascism. “It’s not enough to pass these hurtful laws, they also have to silence and make examples of anyone who stands up to them,” she said.