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Lincoln, Neb., city council adds LGBT protections to civil rights ordinance

Monday, May 14, 2012
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LINCOLN, Neb. — The Lincoln, Neb., City Council on Monday evening approved expanding the city’s civil rights protections to include its LGBT citizens.

The partisan vote was approved by the five Democrats on the council; the two Republicans abstained, saying they had a conflict of interest.

“Prejudice and discrimination are never right in this community for any reasons,” said Councilman Carl Eskridge, sponsor of the “fairness ordinance,” after the vote.

“This is good for Lincoln. It says this is a progressive community, open to whoever chooses to come… a welcoming city… a respectful community to live, work, play and raise families,” Eskridge said.

The measure is being challenged, however. Two conservative right wing christian advocacy groups said they will organize a petition drive to stop the proposal from going into effect until there is a city-wide vote on the issue, reported the Lincoln Journal-Star.

The Nebraska Family Council and Family First will be distributing petitions to collect the more than 2,500 signatures of registered city voters needed to get the issue on the ballot, said Al Riskowski, executive director of Nebraska Family Council.

Under a provision of the city’s charter, the coalition has just 15 days to collect the signatures.

In a six-and-a-half hour marathon hearing a week ago Monday, the council heard from more than 70 people expressing their opinions for and against the proposed ordinance that would protect gay and transgender citizens from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

“This is an issue of basic fairness,” Lincoln’s Mayor, Chris Beutler said. “No one should live in fear of losing a job or housing because of sexual orientation or gender identity. Lincoln is the capital city of the state whose motto is ‘Equality before the law.’ It’s time to make those words ring true.”

Opponents said the ordinance would impinge upon their religious freedoms by requiring them to accept behavior they consider immoral.

“You just create a very difficult environment in the state if you start allowing various cities to have new protected classes,” said the Rev. Al Riskowski, executive director of the Nebraska Family Council.

The Omaha City Council recently added similar anti-discrimination protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to its civil rights ordinance.

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