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Legislative committee hears bills to ban LGBT discrimination in Nebraska

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A second bill by Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha would allow for joint adoption by two individual regardless of marital status. If a same-sex couple adopts a child, current law mandates that child would only have legal connections to one parent.

Lin Quenzer of Lincoln described the challenges of raising a 15-year-old without such a law. Quenzer’s partner of 26 years is the legal parent of her son. She calls herself a “legal stranger” who can’t sign papers at his school or take him to the dentist. Under current laws, if her partner died, Quenzer would not be guaranteed custody of the child they raised.

But opponents, many of whom testified against the previous bill, reiterated beliefs that a commitment between a husband and a wife is the most stable environment to raise a child. Joe Neuhaus of the Nebraska Family Alliance said he worried the bill’s language leaves room for innumerable combinations of individuals to become parents.

A third measure by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln would ban employment discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Morfeld told the committee it’s about maintaining Nebraska’s competitive job market as much as equality.

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Clark Lauritzen of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce said the measure would keep talent in the state.

“The longer we wait, … the more good talent and jobs we will lose to other states,” Lauritzen said.

Greg Schleppenbach of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, who testified on all three bills, said the church strongly opposes unjust discrimination but does not believe employers should be forced to affirm employees’ choices.

The committee will not vote on advancing the bills until next week at the earliest, according to chairman Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings.

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