Nebraska Senate Panel Reluctant to Act on Anti-Gay Bill
Reports suggest that a Nebraska senate panel is reluctant to advance a bill that would effectively ban local city ordinances from offering LGBT workplace protections.
State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said at a committee hearing Wednesday he does not expect the panel will act on a bill aimed at blocking the ordinance.
Legislative Bill 912 would prohibit cities and other local governments from protecting new classes of people who are not protected under state law. The bill would be retroactive, meaning it would void any city ordinance passed before the bill took effect.
Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, the bill’s sponsor, argued that it was needed to prevent a patchwork quilt of discrimination ordinances across the state.
“Discrimination does not stop at a city or county border,” he said. “If adding or removing a protected class is the right thing to do, it is the right thing to do border to border across Nebraska, not just in one city or one municipality.”
The legislation arose after officials in Omaha planned to exceed current state-wide nondiscrimination ordinances and add protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.
Opponents of the ordinance charge that, despite a wealth of national data to the contrary, there is no evidence to suggest LGBT workers face discrimination.
Ordinance supporters have offered that Senator McCoy is simply trying to attack the LGBT rights ordinance.
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray has previously said he thinks that McCoy is attempting to undermine his anti-discrimination bill.
“The timing is suspicious, first of all,” Gray said. “Secondly, there are some issue that are more unique to Omaha than the rest of the state. We need the flexibility and latitude [to pass local ordinances], and it’s getting kind of frustrating that the Legislature keep trying to micromanage the city.”
The legislation’s demand for retroactive application has worried others given that Omaha’s current ordinances protect people from housing discrimination based on age and marital status while state law does not. McCoy has said that he will attend to those issues during debate on the legislation.