Omaha City Council Passes LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill 4-3


Omaha Nebraska's City Council passed a bill protecting its LGBT residents, allowing them to "file complaints with Omaha's Human Rights and Relations Department if they were fired over their orientation, suffered other workplace discrimination or were refused services at restaurants, hotels or other places that serve the public," the World-Herald reports:

GrayPassed on a 4-3 vote, the council ended weeks of scrutiny and intense lobbying that exposed fractures within the city's business and religious communities. The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce decided to remain neutral on the issue, citing a split in its membership.

Garry Gernandt, the South Omaha council member who voted against a similar proposal in 2010, cast a surprise swing vote in favor of the ordinance.

"We are all part of the human race," he said.

Also voting in favor were sponsor Ben Gray (pictured), Pete Festersen and Chris Jerram.

Franklin Thompson, the councilman who scuttled a similar proposal in 2010 by refusing to break a 3-3 tie, voted against the proposal Tuesday. Also voting no were council members Jean Stothert and Tom Mulligan. Thompson's vote came after a poll commissioned by gay rights activists said 61 percent of voters in his west-central District 6 favored the proposed changes, while 29 percent opposed them.

Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle praised the vote: "I applaud the City Council for their actions today and I look forward to signing this ordinance into law.I want to thank Councilman Ben Gray for his dedication and leadership in bringing this action forward, not once but twice, and for working with community leaders and his colleagues on the council to find consensus for a final ordinance."


  1. EchoMark says

    Amazing, unexpected victory when things were looking especially grim, because swing vote Franklin Thompson went on a bizarre rant that included gems like:

    “From my observation, and this is my observation only, for every 10 LGBTQ persons, I believe that approximately four are born that way, and six are choosing. I have two family members, and one was born that way, and one chose. And I happen to know that she chose that way because of some abuse in the family.”

    “Omaha is unique and it will never, ever copy San Francisco, or other places like that. I don’t want it to. I kind of like that it has a little laid-back feel, a country feel. I like that it has a little bit of a conservative feel. It’s a little bit of a choice. And if this is not the city you want to live in, you gotta find another city.” (33:00)

  2. Cyclone says

    Glad to see this passed. Cheers to Mr.Gray for making it happen! It’s amazing that Omaha sits just across the Missouri River from Iowa… which as a fully inclusive nondiscrimination law statewide and marriage equality. It’s amazing how places so close can be so different.

  3. Mike Jolanes says

    This is what happens when local, small town LGBT bond and band together in the name of THEIR rights, THEIR livelihood, and the next geenration of gay youth in those areas. ALL LGBT need to be involved and active, especially those in conservative states. You owe it to yourself and your life. When you do, you see phenomenal progress like this. It’s worth the small effort.

  4. IonMovies says

    “(gays could be allowed to file complaints if they are)…fired over their orientation, suffered other workplace discrimination or were refused services at restaurants, hotels or other places that serve the public”

    Does anyone find it absolutely striking (sad, disgusting, vile, inhumane, disraceful) that this is event debated. Or put up for a vote. Or barely wins in that vote. If you don’t believe there’s millions IN AMERICA who would want the genocide of all gays, you need to wake up and smell the air. Roll up your sleeves and get involved in the fight for equality.

  5. Kyle says

    we have to argue why we shouldn’t be kicked out of public places for so much even being deemed gay. NOW tell me gays haven’t endured as much as other minorities in our civil rights battle. only difference is, in our case, we were fighting without a voice for centuries whereas every other minority group ALWAYS had a voice. we just got ours. don’t ever tell me gays haven’t and don’t endure horrific prejudices.

  6. Cierra says

    Although a happy moment, it’s also a depressing one. Stories about city council topics like this, and people standing in front of their city councils and gays and demanding they be allowed to fire a gay family man, who has to feed his children, and rather see them starve over his being naturally gay, tells me that gay civil rights is the last frontier. It shouldn’t be so, as society should have learned from histories past, but society has joined forces today to hate on LGBT. I sincerely hope every LGBT cares enough to make a difference.

  7. Gary says

    This was a tough fight, but we prevailed. I hope this can help demonstrate to a new tier of cities that progress is possible. I really didn’t think we would win, but the community…straight and gay….pulled together and presented a strong, compelling case. It was handled with great civility, dignity, and intelligence, and i am so proud to be a gay Omahan! We all hope that someday this won’t be necessary, but until then let’s fight to see every city pass an anti-discrimination law! (PS, come visit Omaha….we totally rock. I moved here from NYC two years ago, and love it.)

  8. SC David says

    Congratulations to all in Omaha!

    According to the Omaha World-Herald article, the measure passed because council member Garry Gernandt, who voted against the measure last time, changed his mind and voted for the measure this time. The city website bio of Mr. Gernandt says he is an ex-Marine, ex-police officer. I’d love to hear why he changed his mind and decided to support us. Perhaps those of us who appreciate Mr. Gernandt’s change of heart could call his office and say thanks (402-444-5522 according to the city website) or send an email. He’ll probably be getting crap by the wheelbarrowful from the haters.

    One closing question–The World Herald quotes Joe Solmonese on the vote. Can anyone tell us what HRCF did to help this local movement succeed?

  9. Marcito says

    The Human Rights Campaign has played a large role in passing this ordinance. They partnered with Equal Omaha in advocating for the measure especially within the business community. HRC also contributed funds for district and city-wide polling that showed two-to-one support for the non-discrimination ordinance. The poll was very convincing that the citizens of Omaha were ready to join the 21st century.
    After living in NYC for over twenty yr.’s, I am finally getting past the shock that I returned to Omaha and doing well.
    Cheers to Equal Omaha & HRC for all you have done!

  10. Ronny says

    Glad to see progress in Omaha is possible. Even five years ago when I left I wondered if things would improve and now I’m even more excited for my visits each spring.