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Lawmakers debate LGBT discrimination bill
Thursday lawmakers got together to debate an issue that's faced a number of Nebraska cities lately and it is now hitting a state level - workplace discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.
Senator Danielle Conrad introduced the legislation, which is similar to a bill that was introduced in 2007, but never made it out of committee.
This bill, LB 485, comes on the heels of similar city ordinances that have recently been passed in Lincoln and Omaha that would ban discrimination in the workplace.
"To quote Victor Hugo, nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. Friends, this is indeed an idea whose time has come," said Conrad.
It's legislation supporters say is needed.
"At the present time, our State Fair employment practice act does not include sexual orientation as a protected basis," said Barbara Alberts, NE Equal Opportunity Commission.
Lincoln Senator Danielle Conrad introduced the bill and says it's a matter of justice and fairness.
"They pay taxes, they walk the dog, they volunteer in our communities, they attend religious services, just like other Nebraskans," Conrad said.
But opponents say the bill goes too far.
"We're for equal treatment in the workplace based on performance and competance and equal protection under the law. However, LB 485 moves us from equal protection under the law to special protection under the law," said Mark Ashton, Christ Community Church, Omaha.
"This bill fails to protect the First Amendment freedoms. Instead, it seeks to confine religious freedom in particular to the four walls of a church or a place of worship," said Kellie Fiedorek, Alliance Defending Freedom.
But Senator Conrad disagrees.
"Let me be clear, this legislation is not about special rights for anyone, but rather it's about fairness and equality for everyone," Conrad said.
Two other bills were also introduced Thursday. One would allow same sex couples to foster children in need, the other would allow unmarried people to adopt a child as a co-parent.
"Although my story is my famiy's story, it is not unique to me, there are many other Nebraska families like mine where a child has a second parent but without protection of the law to keep the child or children in a stable safe and familiar environment if something were to happen to the legal parent," said Dawn Cripe, same-sex co-parent.
Senator Conrad's bill was introduced on the heels of similar legislation that was recently passed in Lincoln and Omaha.
"It is time for Nebraska to joins the ranks of about half of
Our sister states and about 180 local governments who have adopted similar legislation," said Conrad.
The city of Grand Island failed to pass similar legislation back in
October. They did however pass legislation that would ban city employees from being hired or fired because of sexual orientation.
As for the three bills that were introduced today, they are still in committee we will wait and see if they make it to the floor.
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