Omaha Chamber of Commerce: Legislation on gender-affirming care is bad for business

April 28, 2023, 3:21 p.m. ·

The Nebraska State Capitol builiding in Lincoln, Nebraska
The Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln. (Photo by Fred Knapp, Nebraska Public Media News)

Even having a debate about gender-affirming care for minors is bad for business in Nebraska, according to the state’s largest business community.

In a statement released Wednesday on “legislative activity in Nebraska Unicameral,”, the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which has over 3,000 members, warned lawmakers against divisive political fights playing out nationally.

Tim Burke is interim president of the Chamber. Reached Thursday, he doubled down on the statements and made clear the statements were targeting the debate around gender-affirming healthcare for young people.

“If you've done that research,” Burke said, “It's fairly clear about this. Allow the families to have that kind of engagement with medical professionals and therapists about what's in the best interest of their youth, of their family, of their of their unique situation.”

He says when legislation about gender-affirming care for minors was first introduced, the chamber stayed out of the debate, initially seeing it as a medical issue. Since then, Burke said he’s heard from a number of young professionals, CEOs, and business leaders, who told him, even at the debate stage, such legislation can and will have a negative impact.

“It's impacting the business community,” said Burke. “It's impacting recruiting, it's impacting employee retention. It's impacting workforce, it's impacting the state being recognized as welcoming."

Burke adds failure to consider the consequences of such legislation could become an existential threat to the state’s long-term business interests. He says this is especially true as the next generation of workers emerges.

“If you take a look at their perspective on certain public items: rights items, inclusion, diversity, equity items, they are very strong on those positions,” Burke said. “If we cannot retain people here, it becomes pretty dramatic for the state,”

Burke says he realizes both the statement and his comments could provoke a political backlash. But he says the Chamber sees the legislation as an existential issue for the state and speaking out is worth it.