A transgender employee of a coffee shop in Lincoln, Neb., was fired after telling an anti-LGBTQ activist she wasn’t welcome in the business.
The trans woman, Natalie Weiss, now says she knows she behaved inappropriately, but she points out that the customer’s organization, the Nebraska Family Alliance, would be just fine with businesses turning away LGBTQ people.
“What I did was unprofessional, and I certainly would not want to be treated the way I treated that woman today,” Weiss told the Lincoln Journal Star. “The fact of the matter is, that person and her political allies advocate for that type of behavior to be legal, and they do it every single year in the legislature.”
The customer in question, Marilyn Synek, is a communications specialist for the Nebraska Family Alliance, a group that has campaigned against state legislation that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to fighting a local LGBTQ rights ordinance in Lincoln, which is the state’s capital and home to the University of Nebraska’s main campus. The organization also opposes abortion rights and seeks to restrict gambling.
Synek, who says she is a regular customer at Lincoln’s Cultiva Coffee, also known as Cultiva Espresso & Crepes, went into the business Wednesday morning and was confronted by an employee (later identified as Weiss), the activist wrote on Facebook.
“Marilyn Synek! I didn’t recognize you until now, but I just realized who you are, what you stand for, and the work you do,” the employee said, according to Synek. “You are f****** bigoted trash, and we do not want you in our restaurant. Over 80% of the people who work here are queer. You are not f****** wanted in our restaurant, so get out and don’t come back! If you do try to come back, we will all refuse any service to you.”
Synek, who has also worked for conservative politicians such as U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, wrote that she had never broadcast her political views in the restaurant and has treated all its employees “with respect and courtesy.”
The shop’s owners quickly fired Weiss and apologized to Synek. “While we’re proudly liberal personally, and believe in human rights and diversity to the fullest degree, let it be known that we would *never* condone treating a customer this way,” Jason Anderson and Sharon Grossman said in a Facebook post. “We’re running a business, and we try to instill professionalism in our staff, usually successfully.”
“Whatever your race, religion, gender identity, or general political beliefs, we just want you to enjoy our food and coffee, and have a good time, and tell other people you had a good time,” they continued. “We’re sorry there was a moment when that didn’t happen today.”
Synek said she has accepted the apology. Weiss said she knew she behaved unprofessionally toward Synek but did not regret standing up for LGBTQ people. “Nebraskans like myself do lose our jobs, and sometimes our living arrangements, because of who we are, and people like the Nebraska Family Alliance are why,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Their money, their influence, and their national political allies are why Lincoln cannot mount a successful ballot initiative concerning Lincoln’s Fairness Ordinance.”