As a veteran who served in the Army, I have always been devoted to defending the freedoms that all Americans hold dear. This Military Appreciation Month, I’m asking Congress to do the same, and ensure those freedoms for millions of LGBTQ Americans by supporting a federal law that prohibits LGBTQ discrimination nationwide.
I’ve been an ally to the LGBTQ community since my military days. I was stationed in Germany during the Cold War. The Berlin Wall had not yet fallen. The Soviet Union was a looming threat. It was a high-pressure time in a high-pressure environment. At least a dozen of the soldiers I served alongside were gay, and all of us understood that the discrimination they faced was completely unwarranted. These were well-respected military intelligence officers at the top of their game. A good soldier is a good soldier — it doesn’t matter who you are or who you love if you get the job done.
No one in the unit had a problem with our colleagues’ sexual orientation, but military leadership did. For this reason, the soldiers I served alongside didn’t come out publicly until retirement. At that point, many of them had been in the service for decades.
Discrimination against LGBTQ Americans was wrong then, and it is wrong now. This past summer, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v Clayton County that employment discrimination against LGBTQ people is sex discrimination and is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite the decision, critical gaps remain in federal nondiscrimination law. The LGBTQ community remains unprotected in housing, credit, lending, public spaces and in health care settings.
Unfortunately, Nebraska is one of the many states that still lacks comprehensive, explicit protections for our LGBTQ friends and neighbors. With a growing bipartisan supermajority of Americans supporting protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, it’s high time that our representatives in Congress pass legislation to ensure that LGBTQ people are free from discrimination in every aspect of their lives, no matter what state they call home.
Here in Nebraska, our values of treating others as we would want to be treated transcend party lines. Our families and our communities are strongest when all of us are free to prosper. Every Nebraskan should be free to go about their daily lives — go into a store, check in to a hotel, eat a meal at a restaurant, apply for a job, and rent or own a home — without fear. Discrimination is a barrier to those simple freedoms.
I applaud Sen. Deb Fischer for her prior support of the repeal of the transgender military ban. Her vote reflects the fact that discrimination is wrong, and it hurts all of us. Our lawmakers must do everything in their power to push for freedom for LGBTQ Americans by supporting a federal nondiscrimination law like the Equality Act.
The Equality Act has broad and deep support across lines of political party, demographics and geography. Public support is at an all-time high, with 76% of Americans saying they favor LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, including 62% of Republicans and a majority in every state in the country.
America is ready for Congress to pass clear, comprehensive and secure nondiscrimination protections. I hope Sen. Fischer will listen to her constituents, show leadership, and seize this opportunity. By negotiating in good faith and finding common ground, our senators can send a powerful message of inclusion to all Americans. After all, equality is not a Democratic or Republican value, it’s an American value. It’s one I spent years defending.
Jeanne Weidner lives in Omaha.