The Grand Island City Council rejected a proposed ordinance that would have extended anti-discrimination protection to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) - The council on Tuesday voted 8-2 against the measure, which would have barred businesses from discriminating against current or prospective employees based on their sexual orientation. It would have also covered housing and retail situations.
Councilman Larry Carney pushed the measure, saying he'd been seeking "obvious justice" and simple fairness for everyone who lives in the south-central Nebraska city.
"Fair play and justice do count," Carney said.
Councilman Mitch Nickerson, who voted against it, said that while he believes the city is tolerant, he thinks most residents oppose homosexuality and that the council would have been promoting it by adopting the proposed ordinance.
Nickerson said he checked with a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender support group and with Grand Police but wasn't given any data or examples of hate crimes or discriminatory action.
Councilman Scott Dugan said the city had eliminated its human rights commission and a section of the city code that dealt with civil rights, and passing the ordinance would have given only homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people protection against bias.
State and federal laws bar discrimination based on race, ethnic origin and other factors in jobs, housing and other settings. But neither state nor federal laws expressly bar discrimination against homosexual, bisexual or transgender people.
Dugan also pointed out that the state Attorney General's Office has said that municipalities lack authority to expand civil rights.
But Carney told Dugan: "You're either against discrimination or for it. You can't be both."
In May, the Nebraska Attorney General's Office issued a nonbinding opinion that local governments in Nebraska can't adopt ordinances protecting people from discrimination for being homosexual, bisexual or transgender because the state's anti-discrimination laws don't extend to sexual orientation. It said voters can approve changes to city charters to extend such protections to groups not covered by state law.
A motion by Councilman Bob Niemann to put the ordinance on a citywide ballot failed on a tie vote.
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - Petitions seeking to repeal Omaha's new legal protections for gay and transgender residents are now being circulated.
The Omaha World-Herald reports (http://bit.ly/URRX2S) that organizers must gather about 11,400 valid signatures over the next month to put the measure before voters.
A local tea party organizer and clergy and Christian groups are supporting the effort.
The Omaha City Council narrowly approved the ordinance in March that bans employers, job-training programs, labor groups and other organizations from discriminating based on a person's sexual orientation. The measure included exemptions for religious organizations.
The Lincoln City Council adopted a similar ordinance in May, but opponents mounted a successful petition drive that requires the council to either let the ordinance die or submit it for voter approval. The public vote has not yet been scheduled.
Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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