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NE Organization Expands Statewide to Counter LGBT Discrimination

Currently, Nebraska workers can be fired from their jobs or lose housing because of to their sexual orientation or gender status. (Pexels)
Currently, Nebraska workers can be fired from their jobs or lose housing because of to their sexual orientation or gender status. (Pexels)
February 25, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Lincoln-based group Out Nebraska has a new leader and is expanding its work for LGBTQ rights across the state.

Abbi Swatsworth, a long-time volunteer and the group's new executive director, says her goal is to educate lawmakers about the value LGBTQ communities bring to the state.

She says it's also time for Nebraska to join 21 other states to pass legislation that protects people from workplace and other discrimination.

"I think it's important for Nebraska to keep good, hard working Nebraskans in our state – to keep young people here, to grow our rural communities and the businesses that do business in Nebraska – and I think non-discrimination is one way we can do that," Swatsworth states.

Swatsworth says many Nebraskans don't realize that workers can get legally married over the weekend and get fired on Monday for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.

She adds that while residents in Omaha have some protections against discrimination, people in the rest of the state are still at risk of losing jobs or housing.

Critics argue that laws banning discrimination could interfere with their religious beliefs.

LB 627, a statewide measure that would prohibit workplace discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity, cleared the Judiciary Committee and could be heard by the full Legislature as early as this week.

Swatsworth says the proposal would bring the state closer to living out its motto of "equality before the law."

"We believe that all hard working Nebraskans should be judged on the merits of their work, and I also believe that Nebraskans value fairness and treating others as we would treat ourselves," she states.

In addition to work during the current legislative term, which includes reaching out to potential allied organizations and preparing testimonials, Swatsworth says the next steps include hitting the road to hear from people living outside the state capital.

She says if your town might be interested in scheduling a stop on Out Nebraska’s upcoming listening tour, get in touch by visiting the group's website: outnebraska.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE