Sunday, May 06, 2007

State Agency Bans Discussion About Gay Parenting

by Kyle Michaelis
This is a pretty damn fine display of the right-wing whack-jobs who are pulling the strings in state government. Leaders of Nebraska Health and Human Services seem to think by prohibiting discussion of the troubles faced by Nebraska families with gay parents, the problems - or maybe even the families themselves - will simply disappear.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
[S]tate HHS leaders recently ordered a Lincoln-based diversity committee to remove one speaker from an informational forum focusing on family diversity because the woman was in a same-sex partnership....

The team was told to remove the speaker involved in same-sex parenting from the lineup, even though the agency policy statement says the team should promote and encourage the appreciation of human diversity in the workplace and communities served by HHS, said Cathy Kingery, diversity committee co-chairwoman.

The forum was neither condoning nor condemning gay life but simply recognizing its existence and the special circumstances families may encounter, Kingery said in an e-mail description of the issue. The administration was unwilling to waiver, she said.

HHS administrators say the diversity team strayed from agency guidelines that limit diversity issues to groups protected under federal law. They include race, religion, national origin, gender and handicaps, but not sexual orientation, said HHS spokeswoman Kathie Osterman....

[Kingery] said committee members were aware that previous diversity committees had been told they couldn’t discuss same-sex issues, but they had seen nothing in writing.

Concerned they were being asked to discriminate when their goal was to recognize and encourage appreciation of diversity, 11 of 18 committee members, including the two co-chairmen, resigned.

After reporters began inquiring on Friday about the guidelines limiting diversity issues, HHS system CEO Chris Peterson said she wanted to meet with committee members....

Kingery said she and others would be happy to talk with Peterson, and she might be willing to rejoin the group if members had the right to discuss any diversity issue.

“But I’m not willing to just give lip service to diversity. We can’t blatantly discriminate against one group of people just because the administration doesn’t want us to acknowledge they exist.”

In answer to questions, Peterson said the guideline was not established to avoid political controversy but to provide a way of managing programs. She also said the agency does not discriminate against employees because they are gay.
This is just outrageously pathetic and backwards. It's also a pretty ugly reminder of the adversity faced by non-traditional, same-sex parent families, who currently have no recognition or protection under state law and who are supposedly so dangerous a threat to our society that they can't even be discussed in state government.

Sadly, I believe LB 571, which would have provided some measure of protection to same-sex parents and their children, won't be going anywhere this legislative session. It also remains unlikely that LB 475 can muster the support it needs to affirm the decency of Nebraska's citizens by ending discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation.

But, we know that the principles of equality raised by these issues are right and true and that our common humanity shall eventually prevail. Alas, change in democracy does take time. This embarrassing prohibition of even discussing gay parents in a forum on diversity is a testament to the fear and weakness of those who support the shameful status quo.

For forcing this issue and exposing this horrible policy for what it is, the New Nebraska Network salutes Cathy Kingery and all those representatives on HHS' Lincoln Diversity Committee who have made a stand for a just cause and a greater Nebraska.

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Blogger elisabeth said...

I am proud of the committee members for resigning from such a blatantly discriminatory excuse for a "diversity" committee. Way to make the issue receive the press attention it deserves, rather than letting the discrimination continue in silence!

Anonymous Victoria Lavin said...

Thanks Kyle for you continued support in our efforts.

Maybe Nebraska needs rethink their state motto which is Equality Before the Law because they do not resemble that motto.


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