A few days after voting to kill a proposal to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in Nebraska, Republican state Sen. Bill Kintner took to talk radio to explain why “men in dresses” don’t deserve protected class status.
What followed was a heated discussion of LGBT rights, marked by level of candor rarely seen in national politics. Kintner argued that there are no problems with discrimination in Nebraska; that the Constitution allows people to violate gay individuals’ civil rights; and that businesses should be able to “make it known” if they don’t want to serve LGBT people by providing them with bad service.
Kintner also challenged Nebraskans to elect him out of office if they don’t like his positions on LGBT equality.
“When there’s a majority of people in our state that thinks [LBGT rights are an] important issue, and thinks that they want representation to do that, it’ll happen,” Kintner said. “There were 40,000 people who elected me to represent them … they sent me down here to do this job.”
Kintner’s comments came amid a heated national conversation about LGBT rights — particularly, whether states should enact laws to prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, North Carolina passed what many consider to be the most anti-LGBT law in the country, preventing its cities and counties from offering discrimination protections. On Monday, Georgia’s governor vetoed a similar bill that would have allowed businesses like adoption agencies to refuse to serve same-sex couples.
These bills are mostly justified by claims of “religious liberty” — meaning, business owners should be able to refuse to serve same-sex couples if they feel that homosexuality violates their religious beliefs.
Kintner’s comments, however, offered a window into some of the other reasons lawmakers may be pushing these initiatives. For instance, Kinter suggested that LGBT individuals don’t deserve a protected class.
“If you have another protected class, you will have problems,” he said, and laid out a hypothetical situation in which a poorly-performing male employee pretends to be a woman to prevent being fired.
“So if you get an employee who is habitually late — he’s just not a very good employee — and you sit him down and say ‘Joe, you’re late too often, you don’t get your work done on time, you’re not doing the job right, you’ve gotta straighten up or we’re going to replace you. And he says, ‘You know, I feel like a woman today. Now we’ve got a whole problem if you’re trying to get rid of him,” Kintner said.
NewsTalk 1290 host Matt Tompkins then challenged Kintner, saying that transgender people don’t consciously choose their gender identity. Kintner responded by, among other things, misgendering and dead-naming transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner:
TOMPKINS: The reason the LGBT community believes this is a civil right is because — like being black or being a woman or being old — you don’t choose to be transgender, you don’t choose to be gay. You’re saying they’re making a choice, and using that choice to file a frivolous lawsuit?
KINTNER: Yes. Let’s think about Bruce Jenner. Because he wears a dress, does that make him a woman? Of course it doesn’t. Of course it doesn’t.
Another notable exchange came when Kintner argued that the First Amendment of the Constitution allows people and businesses to violate the civil rights of LGBT people. Kintner also said that businesses should be allowed to slyly indicate that they don’t want to serve LGBT people by providing them with bad service.
TOMPKINS: The First Amendment doesn’t grant you the right to discriminate against other people and violate their civil rights that the Constitution also protects.
KINTNER: Oh yes it does. Oh yes it does.
TOMPKINS: There are people affected that are being discriminated against. It may not be signs on the restaurant or signs at city hall, but it is happening, so I don’t understand why it’s…
KINTNER: Well, if you have a restaurant, and they’re not overtly discriminating but, you know, they’re kind of making it known that you know, we don’t like men sitting around in dresses, you now, that stuff takes care of itself. Word will get out that this place doesn’t serve everyone. It doesn’t give everyone equal treatment. If you’re a man wearing a dress it takes you an hour to get waited on, and for everyone else it takes 20 minutes … that’s called bad service.
TOMPKINS: But that argument was the same argument people used in the civil rights era. You’re saying it’s okay that if a black person, if it takes an hour for them to get service, that’s just bad service so a black person just shouldn’t go to that restaurant?
KINTNER: That’s called bad service.
This is not the first time Kintner has made controversial comments about LGBT individuals. He made waves in 2013 for opposing what he called “homosexual bills” that would allow same-sex couples to adopt or be foster parents.
In his recent radio interview, Kintner said he believed those views were keeping him in office. That, he said, is why he would not support discrimination protections for LGBT individuals.
“If I would have come out and said I supported this, I would not be sitting here as a senator,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind.”