“Lincoln has to compete with other communities for talented workers and many of those cities have protections in place based on sexual orientation.”
– Beatty Brasch, Executive Director of Center for People In Need
Having grown up in Lincoln and having spent the majority of my life there, I was thrilled to see the Fairness Ordinance pass. Two weeks later, I was disappointed and saddened to learn that 10,000 Lincoln residents signed a petition saying it's OK to discriminate against one particular minority group. Civil rights should not have to come to a public vote.
Here is my story, and why I think the Fairness Ordinance must be passed:
I'm 30 years old. For 29 years, I was living a lie. I hid the fact that I'm gay from my parents, from my best friends, from my coworkers -- from everybody. I even hid it from myself, even though deep down I've know for a very long time that I'm gay.
Last year, I finally truly accepted to myself that I'm gay. Since then, I've started to come out. My parents know I'm gay, my best friends know I'm gay.
It's been a big relief to finally be able to tell my friends and family who I am and be honest to them. But at the same time, it hasn't necessarily made anything easier for me. I'm not out to any of my coworkers or really anybody in the town I currently live in, partially out of a fear of losing my job and partially out of a fear of how I'll be treated. I worry about who may find out I'm gay.
Right now, I'm considering moving back to Lincoln within the next year. I could see myself spending the rest of my life in Lincoln. That being said, if this Fairness Ordinance doesn't pass, if the majority of Lincoln voters think it's OK to discriminate against me because I'm gay, I don't know if I could call Lincoln home again.
One of my friends, who is gay, recently said just because you're not in favor of the fairness ordinance doesn't make you a bigot. With all due respect, you either are extremely misinformed or you simply believe it's OK to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation (you're a bigot). Here's hoping the majority of those 10,000 signatures came from people who are misinformed.
This ordinance isn't just about discrimination in the workforce and discrimination when it comes to renting a house or apartment. Indirectly, it's about so much more.
It's about the City of Lincoln telling people, gay and straight, that it's not OK to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. It's about sending out a message that it's OK to be who you are. It's about standing up for civil rights. It's about doing the right thing.