The Nebraska Unicameral Legislature held hearings for three bills regarding LGBT issues on Thursday, but made no decisive action for any of them.
Opposition for the LGBT bills bickered during the extensive questions by Senator Ernie Chambers. One opponent claimed the Senator was stalling the time for the opposition testimony and filibustered the bills.
Chairman Brad Ashford threatened to clear the room after the ruckus.
The three bills seek to create legislation barring discrimination regarding adoption and workforce policies on the basis of sexual orientation, and would provide for two unmarried adults to jointly adopt.
Senator Danielle Howard introduced LB485, which will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workforce. Senator Sara Conrad introduced LB380, which would allow gay couples and any other unmarried adults to adopt a child. Senator Jeremy Nordquist introduced LB385, which would allow anyone to become a foster parent regardless of sexual orientation or marriage qualifications.
“We need to remove all forms of discrimination,” Nebraska Judiciary Committee Chair Brad Ashford, who signed and supported the bills, told 429Magazine. “The Government shouldn’t be discriminating the LGBT community and we need all forms of adopted parents.”
“Employment decisions should not be based on classifications of who someone is or who somebody loves,” Conrad said to Nebraska’s Fremont Tribune. “It should be based on merit and how qualified someone is to do a job.”
“Forward Equality supports LB380, which provides adoption for all unmarried couples including gay couples,” Forward Equality’s Founder Mika Covington told 429Magazine. “Nebraska prohibits any unmarried couples and gay couples from adopting and we need to work on that.”
Covington personally created a petition for the adoption bill that gained 1,000 signatures, which will be delivered electronically at the hearings.
Opposition to the legislation came from Family First as well as the Nebraska Family Council stating that sexual orientation is not a protective right as they see it as a lifestyle and that LGBT people have enough employment opportunities.
“This bill comes in direct conflict with freedom of speech and religious freedom,” said Nebraska Family Council’s Executive Director Al Riskowski in a press release.
“I firmly believe it is poor public policy, but it is hard to be heard from a policy prospective because the hearings get so socially charged. It’s hard to make your case without people saying you’re hateful and bigoted.”
Nebraska laws prohibit discrimination based on disability, age, pregnancy, race and gender but have yet to include sexual orientation.
“It’s a basic freedom for everyone to work,” Ashford said regarding the anti-discrimination bill. “And to be denied employment, we need to protect those people.”
“Against the opposition, we just continue to focus on the bill and what’s best for the children,” said Covington.