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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 18, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 20
Lincoln, Neb., passes LGBT rights ordinance
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Lincoln, Neb., passes LGBT rights ordinance

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Lincoln, Nebraska, the state's capital and second-largest city, passed an LGBT rights ordinance May 14.

The vote was unanimous, with all five Democrats on the City Council voting yes and both Republicans abstaining.

The new ordinance forbids discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Family First Nebraska and the Nebraska Family Council, groups opposed to the measure, threatened to launch a referendum to put the ordinance up for a popular vote.

By law, opponents of the new civil rights protections have 15 days to file an initiative challenging the ordinance, and then must collect 2,500 signatures to put it on the ballot.

Omaha, Nebraska's largest city, passed a similar civil rights ordinance in March.

Nebraska's Republican attorney general, Jon Bruning, issued an opinion at that time saying cities have no authority to create protected classes not included in state law, or to enforce laws on their behalf.

City attorneys for both Omaha and Lincoln say they believe state law and their own home-rule charters give them such authority.

Lincoln City Attorney Rod Confer noted that Lincoln has already enacted other protections against discrimination based on age, family status, and disability that are not included in state law.

'We strongly disagree' with the attorney general's opinion, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler told reporters May 11. 'I can think of no reason to stop moving forward with this ordinance, and I can think of many reasons we need to get this ordinance on the books.'

Lincoln's two Republican council members cited Bruning's opinion as their reason to abstain from voting.

Democratic council member Carl Eskridge, who sponsored the ordinance, said passing the law would be good for business and would tell the world that Lincoln is a progressive community.

'Prejudice and discrimination are never right in this community for any reason,' he said.

Council member DiAnna Schimek said the council had a responsibility to vote on the ordinance rather than pass off the issue to voters.

'It is important for us to do this,' she said. 'It is a sign that we are a caring community.'

Before passing the ordinance, the council added an amendment requested by the local Roman Catholic diocese that strengthened religious exemptions.

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