Monday, April 7, 2014

LB485: anti-LGBT filibusterers explain their motives in opposing NE bill to outlaw employment bias against LGBTs

Excerpts from Deena Winters' excellent Nebraska Watchdog report on last Thursday's debate and filibuster over LB485. It's the most comprehensive account AKSARBENT has seen so far of the proceedings. Click the link and read the whole thing.
     ...64 percent support the bill. According to a memo provided by her [sponsor Danielle Conrad] office, the Anzalone Liszt Grove Research conducted a statewide survey of 600 likely voters by telephone in January. The poll was paid for by a coalition of supporters of the bill, including Equal Nebraska and Human Rights Campaign.
     ...The bill – which will be Conrad’s last as a lawmaker – was passionately supported by Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, who got choked up while recalling how his mother “kicked me out of bed and said, ‘Now you get down there and you fight for LB485.’
     ...Sen. Mark Christensen, R-Imperial, admitted he was launching a filibuster, saying his constituents oppose the bill.
     “Christ tells us to love the person but hate the sin,” Christensen said. “He didn’t tell us to love the person, love the sin.”
     He said he didn’t want to get into an ugly debate over the issue, and then quoted from a study of identical twins that concluded homosexuality is not genetic but can be caused by “non-sharing events” or exposure to pornography, sexual abuse and common environmental factors.
Conrad said all major medical associations reject that point of view, and warned those watching the debate they “may hear a lot of hate” and “junk science” but assured them “that will be nothing more than a dark footnote in a chapter on our civil rights.”
     ...Sen. Bill Avery, D-Lincoln, said 95 percent of the emails he’s received on the bill have been supportive.
     Sen. Ernie Chambers, I-Omaha, who has introduced similar bills over his 40-plus-year career, accused opponents of the bill of “hiding behind religion.”
     “These are people, and that ends the discussion,” he said.
     Sen. Beau McCoy, R-Omaha, said all the lawmakers are opposed to discrimination and “believe in loving our fellow man,” but the bill would force Nebraskans to violate tenets of their faith.
     “Similar laws have been used not as a shield against discrimination, but a sword to punish business owners and people of faith,” he said, noting that when Conrad first introduced the bill in committee last year, she said businesses don’t have the same rights as individuals.
     “That troubles me a great deal and I dare say it would trouble an awful lot of Nebraskans to hear that,” McCoy said.
     But Conrad defended the premise, saying a Taco Bell doesn’t have the same standing as an individual. She said Nebraska can offer as many tax incentives as possible, but will never “attract a big fish like Facebook or Google” if it’s not inclusive.
     ...Sen. Jim Smith, R-Papillion, said while he appreciates Conrad’s compassion and the spirit in which she brought the bill, he opposes the bill because it would be another burden on businesses.
      He said most businesses with 15 to 100 employees don’t have a human resources department and will have to spend more money on legal counsel.
     But Sen. Burke Harr, D-Omaha, an attorney, said if it’s a burden not to discriminate,
“that’s a burden we should be willing to take,” noting that “not one person has been sued” since Omaha passed its ban.

     “This is good business,” he said. “Society is changing. You can fight it, but you’re on the wrong side.”
     Sen. Bill Kintner, R-Papillion, accused supporters of the bill of trying to shame people who support religious freedom.
     “If you’re a Christian bookstore, you want people that reflect your Christian values,” he said.
     He also questioned how people would know someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity and called the bill “an attorney’s dream” that might dissuade people from expanding their businesses to more than 15 employees.
     Conrad, an attorney, offered Kintner “a little free legal advice” –  “Don’t fire someone just because they’re gay.”

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