Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Failed cloture vote to end discussion means LB485, Unicameral LGBT antibias bill, is dead this session; Sens. Beau McCoy and Mark Christensen introduced
22 amendments during their filibuster

Senators Mark Christensen (left) and Beau McCoy, architects of LB485's defeat
Above: the 22 senators who voted against a cloture vote to end discussion
(and a filibuster) against LB485, a bill to extend bias protection in the
workplace to LGBT Nebraskans
After eight hours of debate over three two days, supporters of Danielle Conrad's bill to outlaw anti-LGBT bias in employment in Nebraska lost, 26-22 (with 33 votes needed), a cloture vote to end a filibuster on the measure.
     That filibuster was led by the two Unicameral senators proven most reliably antagonistic to the legitimate aspirations of LGBT Nebraskans, Imperial Senator Mark Christensen and Elkhorn Senator Beau McCoy, author of a failed 2012 measure, LB912, to outlaw all municipal ordinances in Nebraska which bestowed protected-class status on LGBTs.
    McCoy is currently running for governor in a GOP primary field crowded by five other candidates
     Together the two heaped 22 amendments, including one kill measure proposed by McCoy, on LB455 during the filibuster they led.
     The cloture vote means the measure is almost certainly dead for now, as the legislature is unlikely to return to consideration of the bill with four days left in this year's session.
      "I think it’s unfortunate that the senators in the state are taking the time and energy to basically block discussion on something that’s a really important matter for Nebraskans,” said Pat Tetreault, director of the LGBTQA Resource Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
     Tetreault was one of several members of the LGBT community gathered at the Nebraska State Capitol to show support for LB485 on Monday. She said many people don’t realize that unless discrimination is prohibited, it isn’t illegal.

    “Currently, the current state of Nebraska condones and supports discrimination, which is why it is so challenging trying to get a bill passed,” she said.
     In 2012, the Lincoln City Council voted 5-0 to pass a city ordinance comparable to one in Omaha that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, opponents of the ordinance received enough signatures on a petition that would either require repeal by the city council or require citizens to vote.
     The council never acted in the matter.

     Not having this kind of legal protection for gay and lesbian citizens is placing our community under scrutiny and puts Lincoln and surrounding areas at a disadvantage,” said Carl Eskridge, a member of the Lincoln City Council, at a 12:30 p.m. press conference in the Capitol Rotunda before the vote to end debate failed. “We want the sign on Lincoln’s front door to be open. In short, the sign on Lincoln’s door cannot say ‘open for business, but with exceptions.’”
The bill's sponsor, Danielle Conrad, pointed out that 20 states and 180 communities already have approved measures similar to LB485, and that most Nebraskans support the bill. (Beau McCoy of Elkhorn, recently annexed by Omaha, claimed his mail was 95% against LB485.)
     “In the workplace, people should be judged on merit, qualifications and performance,” Conrad said. “It’s time for Nebraska to move forward and send a message across this country that we’re open for business to all who are willing to work hard and play by the rules.”
     Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy [as responsible as any for the defeat of the bill] said it would "force employers to tolerate lifestyles that their religions condemn."
     “Our state government should not be in charge of telling small business owners who have religious objections to check their religious faith at the door of their homes when they leave for work in the morning,” he said.

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