Bruning believes fairness ordinance unconstitutional

By: Ian Hest

Lincoln is set to join Omaha soon in historic legislation that would protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from discrimination.

“Lincoln is the capital city of Nebraska. A state whose motto is, 'Equality above the law.' It's time to make those words ring true for everyone in our community,” said Mayor Chris Beutler.

But Attorney General Jon Bruning released an opinion today stating cities, like Lincoln and Omaha, do not have the ability to expand upon the state's definition of discrimination.

“Nebraska statutes do not authorize political subdivisions in Nebraska including municipalities. Cities have no authority to expand protected classifications to include sexual orientation,” said Bruning.

He said in his opinion, asked by Senator Beau McCoy, that the ordinance passed in Omaha last month and a similar one currently in front of the Lincoln City Council would be unconstitutional in Nebraska.

City officials disagree. In fact, Lincoln's City Attorney says Lincoln has what's called a “Home Rule Charter,” which allows it to expand upon state law when it feels necessary.

Bruning doesn't think this is one of those times, and points to a vote in Lincoln in the 80s where people denied expanding civil rights, a vote City Councilman Carl Eskridge says is simply wrong.

“You don't look at minority rights by making the majority decide if they have those rights or not. It's just that simple,” said Eskridge.

City Attorney Rod Confer said rules that the city has already that the state doesn't includes discriminating on nation of origin or denying housing on the basis of age. He said after looking over Bruning's position, those would also be unconstitutional to the Attorney General.