Legislative Bill 475 adds sexual orientation to the factors that an employer is forbidden to consider when making employment decisions. Under LB 475, it would be an unlawful employment practice for an employer, an employment agency, or a labor organization to discriminate against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation....Don't get me wrong - I know there are more pressing issues facing the state of Nebraska than employment discrimination. The budget, tax cuts, school reorganization, and water policy all demand greater attention and deserve prioritization. But, I stand by my designation of LB 475 as the New Nebraska Network's own personal priority bill because it best reflects the Nebraska in which we believe and the principles to which this site is dedicated.
The Act applies to employers having 15 or more employees; employers with state contracts regardless of the number of employees; the State of Nebraska; governmental agencies; and political subdivisions....
[T]he prohibition against discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation does not apply to any bona fide religious organization.
I cannot speak to the people of Nebraska's opinion on the morality of homosexuality. That's a deeply personal question speaking to an individual's character, convictions, and religious faith in so fundamental a manner that generalization is all but impossible. But, I do feel confident in saying the Nebraskans that I know are not bigots - not in the rural community in which I grew up, not in the city in which I currently live.
Like race, religion, gender, disability, and national origin that are already protected classes, Nebraskans understand that whom a person loves and how they express themselves sexually has no bearing on an employee's qualifications or performance.
Sex may still be a topic that many Nebraskans are uncomfortable talking about publicly, but that doesn't mean they'd support using sexual orientation as grounds for discrimination. Rather, Nebraskans believe in privacy and respect that there are personal matters - hurting noone and breaking no law - that do not and should not affect ones employment.
This is more than just wishful thinking on my part. A 2004 survey conducted by the Nebraska Association of Sociological Behavior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that the people of our state overwhelmingly reject the notion that "it is okay for an employer to hire or not hire an applicant based on the applicant’s sexual orientation."
Broken down by legislative district, not a single district supported allowing discrimination based on sexual orientation. In fact, such discrimination was rejected by more than 2/3rds of those surveyed in 42 of Nebraska's 49 districts. The seven districts that couldn't manage a super majority against discrimination included:
LD #1 - Lavon Heidemann - 62.7% against discriminationWith results like that, it's hard to imagine how State Senators could justify not making this overdue change that will finally capture the common sense and principled compassion of Nebraska's voters.
LD #16 - Kent Rogert - 62.9% against discrimination
LD #30 - Norm Wallman - 61.5% against discrimination
LD #36 - John Wightman - 65.7% against discrimination
LD #43 - Deb Fischer - 64.4% against discrimination
LD #44 - Mark Christensen - 52.9% against discrimination
LD #47 - Philip Erdman - 53.3% against discrimination
Only Senators Christensen and Erdman, both representing the extreme southwest corner of the state, could even make a straight-faced claim that the jury is out or that their constituents haven't made up their minds on this issue. And, even they must first answer to conscience, which cannot possibly justify allowing employment discrimination against citizens for no other reason than their being attracted to people of the same sex.
The Center for People in Need has put together a great resource for contacting State Senators (via e-mail) with your support for LB 475. And, of course, the more direct and personal the contact the better, so constituents should definitely consider calling, writing a letter, or even making a visit to the capitol.
It would also be great if those who contact their State Senators about LB 475 could send word of the response they receive to Michael Gordon of Citizens for Equal Protection at firstname.lastname@example.org. That way, supporters can see where things stand and plan for where they have the most work to do.
Nebraskans are a fundamentally decent people. They believe in fairness and equality even if they sometimes need a refresher on what those principles actually entail. LB 475 is not some pie in the sky advancement of a "gay agenda" - it's good public policy reflecting who we are and what we stand for.
This is one of those issues on which we don't have to look to the future for progress. The people are already on our side. Now is the time to make our stand.
Again, I'm declaring LB 475 the New Nebraska Network's official priority bill for the 2007 session. That may not mean a damn thing, but - if you read this site, agree with its general philosophy, or even just have some vague appreciation for what we do - I hope you'll give serious consideration to joining in our effort to end this insulting and unprincipled form of employment discrimination that is so far beneath the people of our beloved state.