In Passing the Equality Act, We Can Protect the Bottom Line for Nebraska Businesses
By Lyn Wineman
As a small business owner, my bottom line is critically important. It ensures the business I’ve owned and operated for 11 years in Lincoln and Omaha can thrive and my obligations to my family, 19 employees, clients and community can be met.
When something threatens my bottom line, I identify the problem and take action, which is exactly what we need to do in Nebraska right now.
The Equality Act, passed by the House and awaiting a vote from the Senate, will either position our state, and our nation, in a place of strength or leave us in the rearview mirror. The legislation simply protects LGBTQ people from discrimination, without diminishing anyone else’s rights, and at the same time sets Nebraska up for economic success. The time has come for Nebraska business leaders to step forward and use their powerful voices and influence to call on our elected leaders in Washington to do what is right for our LGBTQ family members and friends, and at the same time, do what is good for business.
Nebraska businesses are fighting to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as it is. Our elected leaders must do all they can to remove any obstacles holding us back. The lack of explicit protections for the LGBTQ community not only hurts those who identify as such, but also hurts anyone who has a stake in our state’s economic health which just so happens to be all of us. Fifty states with 50 different sets of protections is the current reality. While Colorado, for example, has full protections from discrimination for the LGBTQ community, Nebraska has none. Passing a federal nondiscrimination law will allow every state to compete on equal footing and give our state the ability to attract business and workforce talent to the place we all love.
Attracting top-notch employees is crucial to any small business owners ability to survive and grow. When I’m searching for talent, I’m looking for people who can get the job done and who bring their talent, passion and joy to work every day. As a member of Nebraska Competes, a non-partisan coalition of leading Nebraska businesses, we are advocating for the passage of the Equality Act as a moral and business necessity. The reality is that our current lack of protections limits the talent we have access to. Forced to choose between a state that will protect them and one that will not, LGBTQ people will choose the one that has their back 10 out of 10 times, just as anyone would. We don’t just owe it to the community to let them know there is no place for discrimination in Nebraska, our economy demands it. Big business is at a crossroads, making major decisions on where to be located coming out of the pandemic. Nebraska has a lot to offer, but it won’t have a real chance to compete without a leveling of the playing field. The price of not acting is a steep one.
Imagine that some people are worried that supporting the Equality Act may curtail their own rights, but the truth is it doesn’t. It simply makes sure that people are not discriminated against for who they are or who they love, and it makes sure people are treated how we ourselves would want to be treated. It comes down to basic dignity and respect.
My family has deep roots in Nebraska, settling here nine years before the state motto “Equality before the law” was adopted back in 1857. For generations Nebraskans have been committed to doing what is right and just and now is the time for us to fulfill that vision. Personally, I like to fight for the underdog. Many times, small businesses like mine are just that. Doing all we can to make our impact, we need every advantage we can get. Basic protections for LGBTQ people help everyone in Nebraska. Growing up here I was instilled with a belief that all people have the ability to follow their dreams. We now have the opportunity to remove the barriers that have kept many from doing just that.
I hope Senator Deb Fischer will show leadership and seize the opportunity to help pass this important law. By negotiating in good faith and finding common ground, our senators can send a powerful message of inclusion to all Americans. In doing so, we will help everyone’s bottom line.