"This is harassment": GOP investigates lawmaker with trans child for opposing anti-trans bill

GOP launches conflict of interest investigation into Megan Hunt over opposition to ban on gender-affirming care

Published April 27, 2023 4:00PM (EDT)

Senator Megan Hunt (Nebraska State Legislature)
Senator Megan Hunt (Nebraska State Legislature)

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Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt on Wednesday said she had received word that the state's Accountability and Disclosure Commission was opening a formal investigation into an alleged conflict of interest stemming from the fact that she has a transgender child and has fought against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation—a probe she said amounted to "harassment."

Hunt (D-8) addressed her colleagues shortly after receiving a hand-delivered packet from the commission in which the executive director, Frank Daley, explained that the panel was investigating claims in a complaint by a right-wing Omaha lawyer named David Begley.

Begley said in his complaint that Hunt was obligated to officially disclose that she has a transgender child before she voted against advancing Legislative Bill 574—the so-called "Let Them Grow Act"—which would bar medical professionals from providing gender-affirming healthcare including puberty blockers, hormonal therapies, and surgeries to people under the age of 19.

"This is using the legal system that we have in our state to stop corruption, to increase transparency, to hold government accountable, and using it to harass a member of the Legislature who you all know is trying to do the right thing," Hunt told her colleagues on Wednesday. "Is trying to parent her child in a way that keeps that child alive."

The attorney noted in his complaint that Hunt has said on the Legislature floor that she has tried four times to obtain care for her child, whose health coverage is through Medicaid. Nebraska's Medicaid coverage does not include so-called "sex change procedures," under regulations passed by the state's Health and Human Services Department in 1990.

Begley said that Hunt and her child would "have a slightly more than average chance of obtaining Medicaid coverage for the child's gender transition medical services via a lawsuit if L.B. 574 does not become law."

Hunt's child "could receive a financial benefit" if the bill fails to pass, he added in the complaint.

"It's not enough to pass these hurtful laws, they also have to silence and make examples of anyone who stands up to them," said Alejandra Caraballo of the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic regarding anti-LGBTQ+ activists.

Hunt noted that Begley is well-known to many of her colleagues in the Legislature. The Omaha attorney attends city meetings on a regular basis to spread conspiracy theories "about the negative effects of solar power [and] how Covid was caused by 5G," according to one critic, and made racist remarks about Black Americans to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, then a presidential candidate, at a public Fourth of July event in 2019.

"This colleagues, is not serious, this is harassment," Hunt said of the complaint.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers spoke out against the investigation that was opened in response to Begley's complaint.

"Every time we have a tax bill, I'm a taxpayer. So I may be involved [in] that every time," state Sen. Wendy DeBoer (D-10) told Nebraska Public Media. "We have a bill that involves families, well, I have a family. So I may be involved. Every time we have a bill on basically anything in here, I'm involved because I care about my state. I care about the people in my state, and I'm involved with them, just like Senator Hunt is."

The commission opened the probe on the same day that the Republican majority in the Montana House voted to bar state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-100) from entering the House floor for the remainder of the legislative session after she accused GOP members of having "blood on their hands" for supporting a ban on gender-affirming care.

Earlier this month, three Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee faced an expulsion vote by the GOP majority for supporting a protest by gun control advocates in the state Capitol building.

Hunt has been joined by state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D-6) in filibustering against the Let Them Grow Act in recent weeks. Hunt said Wednesday she is planning to personally appeal to Republicans in the unicameral Legislature to reject the bill. Republicans hold 32 seats compared to Democrats' 17.

By Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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