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Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray Discusses Ordinance Protecting LGBT Workers: VIDEO

Gray

There's a battle underway in Nebraska between Omaha City Councilmember Ben Gray, who introduced an Equal Employment Ordinance to protect the city's LGBT workers, and Beau McCoy (below), a state senator who introduced a bill intended to stop Gray's ordinance at the state level.

MccoyI've written about it here before. McCoy's bill would prevent LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances at the local level and be retroactive, repealing those already in place, while defining who is a "protected person" under Nebraska state law. LGBT people would be excluded from that definition in McCoy's bill.

Today, some hopeful news. State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, the Judiciary Committee chairman said it does not appear that the panel will act on McCoy's bill.

Gray's proposal will be on the council's agenda for the first time Tuesday, with a public hearing set for March 6.

Hear him talk about it, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, Nebraska Musicians Protest Attempt to Block Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinances

Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst and 16 other musicians are speaking out about a bill I posted about last week proposed by State Sen. Beau McCoy that would prohibit local municipalities across Nebraska from enacting their own anti-discrimination ordinances. The proposed legislation would block plans by Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray to protect LGBT people from discrimination in that city.

OberstThe World Herald reports:

In a letter Tuesday, Oberst and 16 other musicians called it “deplorable and unacceptable” to attempt to block Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray from winning passage of an ordinance to ban discrimination against homosexual and transgender people. Gray has said he would propose such an ordinance this month or next...

...The letter was sent to senators on the Legislature's Judiciary Committee. Others signers include members of The Faint, Big Harp, So So Sailors and Honeybee & Hers.

The musicians fear if lawmakers pass the bill, it will deter creative people from exploring opportunities in Omaha and could persuade some gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to leave the community.

“Progressive cities attract eager newcomers, both young professionals and artists, which in turn creates growth and economic prosperity,” the letter stated. “LB 912 will send the message to the world that Nebraska is not forward thinking or welcoming.”

A hearing on the bill has not scheduled.


Nebraska Lawmaker Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinances

Nebraska State Senator Beau McCoy (pictured) has introduced legislation that would prohibit local municipalities across the state from enacting their own anti-discrimination ordinances. The proposed legislation conflicts with plans by an Omaha City Councilman to protect LGBT people from discrimination in that city, the World-Herald reports:

MccoyCity Councilman Ben Gray says he plans to place a measure to ban discrimination against homosexual and transgender people on the council's agenda — as early as the end of the month or by late February.

But an Omaha state senator wants to bar cities and local governments from unilaterally creating such protected classes. Instead, the bill would grant such authority solely to the state.

The conflicting proposals are likely to reignite debate about more than a municipality's rights. The conversation will center on sexual orientation, the rights of private enterprise, religion and civil rights.

Blogger Aksarbent points out that the legislation proposed by McCoy is similar to that passed last year in Tennessee, which voided an LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance in Nashville.

McCoy has masked his homophobia in a claim he wants consistency in state law: "It just merely says that if we're going to change the protected classes ... we need to come to the Capitol to do it so that it's consistent across the state. If it's the right thing to do, it ought to be the right thing to do border-to-border, not just in one city or municipality."


Omaha City Council Rejects LGBT Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Omaha, Nebraska has rejected an LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance:

Omaha "The measure failed on a 3-3 vote. Councilman Franklin Thompson, who has called for a public vote on the issue, abstained. Councilmen Ben Gray, Pete Festersen and Chris Jerram voted in favor of the ordinance; Jean Stothert, Garry Gernandt and Thomas Mulligan were opposed. Gray, author of the ordinance, proposed that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people be a protected class under city code — protection they don't currently have under state or federal law. He amended tjhe proposal to exclude religious organizations, but members of the Omaha business community also opposed the ordinance.The council held a public hearing Tuesday on Thompson's proposal to put the issue to a public vote, in the form of an amendment to the City Charter. The vote on Thompson's measure is expected next week...Gray's ordinance would allow homosexual and transgender residents who believe they have been fired or suffered other workplace discrimination, or have been refused service at a restaurant, hotel or other place that serves the public, to file a complaint with Omaha's Human Rights and Relations Department, Assistant City Attorney Bernard in den Bosch has said."


Omaha World-Herald to Allow Same-Sex Marriage Announcements

Terry Kroeger, the publisher of the Omaha World-Herald, today announced in a statement that the paper would publish same-sex marriage announcements following anger over its rejection of a local lesbian couple's request.

Kroeger Writes Kroeger in his statement:

There has been quite a lot written online recently about a practice of this news organization to not accept same-sex marriage announcements.

Today we are changing that practice and setting the record straight on our approach generally toward gay and lesbian issues.

The “Celebrations” page of the Omaha World-Herald has provided a place to buy space to celebrate weddings, engagements, anniversaries and birthdays. It will continue to be just that. Celebrations announcements regarding legal weddings, engagements for legal weddings or anniversaries of a legal marriage will be welcomed, regardless of the genders of the couple. We will not run announcements regarding commitment ceremonies, partnerships and other non-marriage unions, again regardless of gender.

Some will criticize this action because they would prefer that same-sex announcements not appear in their newspaper. Others will say it doesn't go far enough. Our sense is that this change will provide for a public “celebration” of important milestones in the lives of people who take the significant steps toward legally sanctioned marriage. Iowa and four other states as well as the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. We will publish Celebrations announcements of marriages from those jurisdictions.

Kroeger also personally congratulates the lesbian couple who inspired the change:

Last week, Omaha businessman Jeff Wilke called me about placing an announcement for the planned union of his daughter, Kristy, and Jessica Kitzman. Unfortunately, the conversation ended before we had a chance to fully discuss the matter. Instead, the matter went public on Facebook and generated a firestorm among folks who care passionately about the issue.

So, given that Kristy and Jessica's plans were the genesis of this controversy, let me pause here to congratulate them on their plans. Kristy, Jessica: I wish you a long and happy life together, and congratulate you and your families.

Kroeger concludes: "This news organization is not guilty of hating gays and lesbians. Should we have seen this issue more clearly? Probably. Have we been too slow in reacting to this matter? Maybe. But hateful? Never."


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