Debate has begun in the legislature on a very contentious issue: whether the state should add sexual orientation to its employment anti-discrimination laws.
Nearly three hours of legislative debate discussed the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender Nebraskans against the backdrop of religious freedom.
Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln, sponsor of LB 485, tells colleagues the bill protects people of faith.
“And that’s one of the important aspects of the Judiciary Committee amendments, which extends a broad religious exemption to not only churches, but other institutions, other organizations, and schools,” Conrad says.
Conrad says it is past time for Nebraska to add sexual orientation to the list of protected classes that includes race, color, religion, sex, disability, and national origin. She argues that Nebraskans face the real possibility of losing their job based on their sexual orientation.
Opponents counter the addition would increase the number of lawsuits business owners face.
Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha worries religious exemptions included in the bill won’t be enough.
“Similar laws to 485 have been used across the country, not as a shield against discrimination, but as a sword to punish business owners and people of faith,” McCoy contends.
The debate Thursday afternoon stopped just short of three hours. Legislators are done for this week, with only one full week of the session left. After another five hours of debate on Monday, supporters can call for a cloture vote to end the filibuster against it.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]