Some businesses that endorsed a letter against anti-LGBTQ proposals field ‘harassing’ calls
Union Pacific, Becton Dickinson among Nebraska companies supporting national statement against anti-LGBTQ proposals
Advocates carry cutouts of Nebraska with its motto, “Equality before the law,” during a rally for trans rights on Friday, March 31, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)
OMAHA — At least one Nebraska business owner called her local police department Monday about what she considers a threatening call from a person angry over a public letter urging state officials to drop bills targeting LGBTQ rights.
Andrea Kathol, founder of Field Day Development, was one of several businesses and nonprofits who endorsed the letter and subsequently were contacted by phone.
Kathol said she was so sickened by the message, which was filled with foul and derogatory language, that at a certain point she stopped listening.
She did, however, report the call and sent the voice message recording to Omaha police. She also called the Nebraska Real Estate Commission, as she believes the woman caller works in that industry.
Kathol said she warned her staff about the call and told them to lock the door of the business.
“When you get a voicemail like this, how can you not take this seriously?” she said.
The call, in part, said: “Hey loser, what the (expletive) is wrong with you? You want males in girls sports? How (expletive) is that? … Are you mutilating the genitals of children as we speak or just advocating for that? … You’re (expletive) outed.”
‘Par for the course’
The Nebraska Examiner called the number that was left on a few answering machines and phones, and the woman who responded said she was busy calling businesses and nonprofits listed on the letter, “trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Driving her actions, she said, were thoughts about the future of her eight daughters, her sisters and other women.
The letter — sent last week to Gov. Jim Pillen and state lawmakers — was endorsed by more than 100 business and nonprofit leaders.
The letter objected to “harmful social legislation” and cited proposed Legislative Bill 574, which would block minors from receiving certain gender-affirming procedures, and LB 575, which would ban transgender girls from competing in girls school sports.
Businesses and nonprofit leaders who endorsed the letter said such bills would be bad for talent recruitment and retention and the overall business climate.
State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha, who introduced the bills, said she does not condone calls viewed to be threatening. She said that was “par for the course” this year, though, with some of the “inflammatory” words said on the legislative floor.
“Every business that signed onto a public letter like that understood they are making a stand that is going to be popular with some and unpopular with others,” Kauth said.
In response to last week’s letter, Pillen’s office said that “protecting Nebraska kids is good for business.”
The governor said, “We welcome all people to Nebraska, but we should not let kids make irreversible life-altering decisions until they are adults.”
When you get a voicemail like this, how can you not take this seriously? – Andrea Kathol, founder and owner of Field Day Development
When you get a voicemail like this, how can you not take this seriously?
– Andrea Kathol, founder and owner of Field Day Development
Friedman Law Offices of Lincoln was among the more than 100 groups that endorsed the letter. Dan Friedman said Monday that he returned a call to a woman who had left a message about the letter.
Friedman said the caller swore at him and told him he was anti-girl and anti-woman, but Friedman said he did not feel physically threatened.
He said that his dad had represented Brandon Teena’s estate and that the law firm’s feelings about the bills in question are fueled by that experience. Brandon Teena was a 21-year-old transgender man and Lincoln native who was murdered 30 years ago in rural Humboldt, Nebraska.
“We will always stand up for the rights of marginalized people in Nebraska and everywhere,” Friedman said. He described the bills in question as “a solution in search of a problem.”
Esther Mejia, founder of E Creative marketing firm, who also endorsed the letter, said she picked up the phone Monday and eventually hung up on a female caller who Mejia said unleashed anger.
She and Kathol said that as part of the LGBTQ community, they considered the verbal attack as deeply personal.
Mejia said the letter to state officials was intended to raise caution about legislative measures that send a message that Nebraska is not “welcoming to all.”
She said the “harassing” call she received Monday “reinforced that kind of narrative.”
The letter followed a similar message delivered earlier by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
The contentious bills have inspired a series of filibusters led by Omaha Sens. Machaela Cavanaugh and Megan Hunt.
After news media outlets, including the Nebraska Examiner, reported about the letter last week, at least one large Omaha business was targeted on social media.
Lt. Neal Bonacci of the Omaha Police Department said an officer took Kathol’s information, and it was passed to the assault unit for review to see if it rose to the level of a crime.
Greg Lemon, the director of the Nebraska Real Estate Commission, said his agency received a call about the message left Monday but would not review matters unless they were real estate related.
Major Nebraska employers sign onto national LGBTQ statement
LINCOLN — Some major employers in Nebraska, including Omaha-based Union Pacific Railroad, are among 319 companies who have signed a statement opposing anti-LGBTQ state legislation.
While the statement, organized by the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, does not specifically mention bills pending in the Nebraska Legislature, it clearly states opposition to measures that block minors from obtaining certain gender-affirming care, as a pending Nebraska measure, Legislative Bill 574, would do.
“We are deeply concerned by the bills being introduced in state houses across the country that single out LGBTQ individuals — many specifically targeting transgender youth — for exclusion or differential treatment,” the statement says.
Such pieces of legislation “unnecessarily and uncharitably single out already marginalized groups for additional disadvantage,” the statement says. “They seek to put the authority of state government behind discrimination and promote mistreatment of a targeted LGBTQ population.”
A spokeswoman with Union Pacific said Monday that the corporation had signed the statement in 2021.
“(Union Pacific) has a longstanding public record of supporting our LGBTQ employees and community, including membership in Nebraska Competes and our 100% rating from the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index,” said Kristen South of Union Pacific.
Several other major employers in Nebraska signed onto the statement. They include Becton Dickinson, Cargill, Google, Kellogg Co., PayPal, Starbucks, Target, US Bank, Wells Fargo, Yahoo and Pfizer.
According to its website, the Human Rights Campaign, founded in 1980, supports “pro-fairness” candidates and policies.
Just recently, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce sent a letter opposed to LB 574, as did a group of 115 leaders of Nebraska businesses and nonprofits.
The bill, proposed by State Sen. Kathleen Kauth of Omaha, is awaiting final-round debate.
— By Nebraska Examiner senior reporter Paul Hammel.
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