In honor of Pride Month, we’re featuring profiles of prominent LGBTQ humanists and atheists. This week, we feature two state-level elected officials, Megan Hunt of Nebraska and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Florida. They are two of the more than seventy elected officials in the United States who identify with the humanist and atheist community.
Megan Hunt won a four-year term in Nebraska’s State Senate District 8 in 2018 in a nonpartisan election. She identifies as bisexual, calling herself “Bi queen” in one of her Twitter bios, and was the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the state legislature of Nebraska. A small business owner, community activist, mother, and sixth-generation Nebraskan, Hunt works in the legislature and her community to empower girls, end sexual assault and harassment, and advocate for comprehensive sex education. During her campaign she told voters that she was running because “I don’t see enough leaders who are willing to advocate for forward-looking developments in Nebraska policy.”
Her priorities in the legislature have been the same as the ones she laid out in her campaign: reducing the brain drain that has, for some time, been an issue in Nebraska, funding quality public education, reforming the criminal justice system, expanding Medicaid, funding family planning services, and investing in alternative energy sources. In the 2020 legislative session, Hunt introduced eleven bills on issues including protecting student athletes (at the college level, permitting them to receive compensation for their name, image, and likeness rights), abortion rights, expanding food stamp (SNAP) benefits to include previously incarcerated people and non-heads of households, and eliminating loyalty oaths for public school teachers and employees.
Hunt has been vocal in traditional media and on social media in support of recent protests for racial justice and reforming law enforcement, particularly since criminal justice reform is an issue of long-standing importance to her. She actively supports organizations such as Black & Pink, which advocates for prison abolition and for members of the LGBTQ community who have been affected by that system.
She also celebrated the recent Supreme Court victory for LGBTQ rights in the workplace, writing,
Today is a victory for LGBTQ+ workers all over our country, especially in Nebraska where we have fought for years at the state level to enshrine these protections into law. We owe our gratitude to Aimee Stephens, Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostock, the LGBTQ+ workers who brought these cases all the way to the top.
“All youth should look forward to a future where they know they are free to be themselves,” she told TheHumanist.com when reached for further comment. “In Nebraska, I’m trying to create a world where that’s possible by passing protections for LGBTQ+ people, banning conversion therapy, and ensuring equity in housing, healthcare, and education.”
In addition to being an elected official, Hunt is the founder of a small clothing business, Hello Holiday, as well as Safe Space Nebraska, a non-profit organization working to end harassment and assault in nightlife establishments. She is a trustee of the Business Ethics Alliance and a board member of Friends of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Previously, she served on the boards of Friends of the Nebraska AIDS Project and Omaha Area Youth Orchestras. She is an open atheist.
Carlos Guillermo Smith was first elected to Florida’s State House District 49 in 2016 and was re-elected in 2018. He made history as Florida’s first openly LGBTQ Latino lawmaker and “proudly identifies as an LGBTQ, Latino, and forward-thinking millennial feminist who reflects the values and diversity of Florida.”
He also made history by inviting and arranging for an atheist chaplain to give the first-ever humanist invocation to the Florida legislature. In addition, he pushed members of his Democratic caucus to build opposition to unconstitutional school-prayer legislation.
Guillermo Smith was the first member of his family to be born in the United States (his father is from Peru and is mother is from Canada). He became involved in community organizing and politics, working on the staff of Equality Florida to protect the rights of LGBTQ people in marriage, housing, employment and public accommodations as well as advocating for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.
When he arrived in the Florida legislature, he formed the Florida Legislative Progressive Caucus. His legislative priorities include gun control, affordable college for all, legalizing cannabis, protections for undocumented immigrants, and statewide single-payer health insurance. In the 2020 legislative session Guillermo Smith has sponsored sixteen bills that reflect these priorities.
In response to Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, GA, he tweeted, “This is a tremendous ruling and a great day for LGBTQ Americans. The SCOTUS has affirmed what advocates have long argued–that anti-LGBTQ discrimination is sex discrimination and is illegal under federal law. The ruling’s impact is immediate.”
“To me pride means, having the courage to love who you want to love. Pride means being unapologetic and living our lives openly and authentically, without fear,” Guillermo Smith told me, stressing that
[b]eing proud of who we are also means that when we push back against discrimination, we are not only pushing back against homophobia and transphobia, but we are also challenging bigotry and racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. Equality for all will never happen unless we stand in solidarity with all marginalized communities.