Gay rights bill stalls - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Gay rights bill stalls

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Update: A bill that would bar Nebraska employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity has stalled in the Legislature.

Lawmakers on Monday fell seven votes short of the support needed to overcome a filibuster and bring the bill to a vote. Senators voted 26-22 to end debate on the legislature; they needed 33.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 20 other states and the District of Columbia already ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Included in those states are neighboring Iowa and Colorado.

Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln says she sponsored the proposal to protect workers from being fired because of their sexual preferences.

Opponents argue that the bill could have violated the religious beliefs of businesses that oppose gay relationships.

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Debate rages on in the legislature on a bill that would protect employees from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Lawmakers began debate on Sen. Danielle Conrad's measure Thursday. After Sen. Mark Christensen filibustered the bill, legislators spent nearly all day Monday discussing it.

"As government, it is our duty to ensure all citizens are treated equally before the law," Conrad said.

Her priority bill, LB485, would ban businesses from firing employees based on sexual orientation. It would apply to employers with 15 or more workers. Religious organizations, including schools, would be exempt.

"Any right that is allowed to anybody should be allowed to every human being," Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said.

Opponents like Sen. Beau McCoy say the wording on "gender identity" is vague, and could cause legal problems for small businesses. He says his faith also plays a role in his opposition.

"We shouldn't be forcing small business owners into a situation of checking their faith at the door," McCoy said.

Sen. John Nelson also spoke against the measure, saying it's unnecessary legislation.

"Everyone in the workplace is afraid of being fired at one time or another," Nelson said.

At a press conference following the morning session, several Neb. citizens like Kathie Deja showed their support. Deja, a lesbian, says she was fired because of her sexual orientation. Now, she splits her time between Neb. and N.M. where she says she feels more comfortable being out.

"This bill needs to pass, and I would give Nebraska a chance again if they gave me a chance," Deja said.

It would take 33 votes to break the filibuster, otherwise lawmakers will have to vote on the bill after 8 hours of debate are up.

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