Nebraska legislature kills LGBTQ civil rights bill

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Nebraska may have the nation’s only unicameral legislature, but the split between progressives and conservatives has been starkly illustrated in a 26-18 vote to shelve a proposed bill that would have prevented employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Senator Adam Morfeld of Lincoln introduced the bill and vowed to bring it back again every year for as long as he is in office.

“When it comes to attitudes about LGBT Nebraskans, the Legislature’s clearly out of touch with the opinions of regular Nebraskans,” Morfeld said.

The bill had the backing of religious leaders and both the Lincoln and Omaha Chambers of Commerce. Recent opinion polling showed statewide support for the measure.

“There are a lot of issues that we deal with in the Legislature that take one attempt, two attempts, three attempts. This happens to be a high-profile issue and it’ll take some time,” Bruce Bohrer, executive vice president of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, told the Associated Press. “We’re disappointed that it has to take some time, but there are people of good will in there that are struggling with nerves and courage. It’ll take a while to get them there, and I don’t have any doubt we’ll eventually do this.”

Senator Bob Krist of Omaha introduced the measure to kill the bill citing religious concerns and a lack of proven discrimination cases in the state. Still, Krist concedes that as acceptance of LGBTQ individuals continues to rise, if supporters can find examples of discrimination, the measure will likely pass within the next couple of years.

Senator Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, however, said she knew of specific cases of discrimination and that she was personally affronted by the legislature’s decision to kill the bill.

“My son is gay. I have watched him be discriminated against in this state,” she said.

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