Respect Equality

Nebraska city council extends equal protection to include sexual orientation, gender, while federal law stalls

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Story at a glance

  • The Lincoln, Neb., city council on Monday amended its municipal code to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The revised city code will replace a fairness ordinance passed in 2012 that has been “in limbo” for the last decade.
  • The city council’s vote comes as the Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in all 50 states, remains stalled in the Senate.

The city council of Lincoln, Neb., on Monday amended its municipal code to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The 5-0 vote (two council members were absent) to revise the city code builds on a fairness ordinance passed in 2012 that was derailed by a referendum petition drive by opponents, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The ordinance was not rescinded but has been “in limbo” for the last decade.

Monday’s vote will replace the earlier ordinance with the updated code, though some residents have already signaled that they plan to mount another petition drive.

City Councilwoman Tammy Ward, who supported the 2012 ordinance, said Monday that changes in federal law — including the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County — warranted a change to the municipal code.


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“The Supreme Court has ruled time and time again to protect the rights of gay human beings. This court is the law of the land,” Ward said, according to the Journal Star. “These changes are about fairness, equity, justice and civil rights. Sometimes it has been hard for me that we even have to have this discussion.”

The Equality Act, which would expand existing civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in all 50 states, remains stalled in the Senate.

The legislation, passed by the House in February, would also strengthen protections for women, people of color and people of all religions.

In a statement last week following the House’s approval of the Global Respect Act, which takes a harder stance against human abuses against LGBTQ+ people abroad, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on the Senate to pass the Equality Act.

“Now, the Senate must join the House in standing up for human rights around the world and here at home by enacting not only the Global Respect Act, but the House-passed Equality Act as well,” Pelosi said.

While advocates say it would simply expand existing protections granted under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, opponents have argued that the Equality Act would jeopardize religious objections.

Still, an October poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 82 percent of Americans support laws shielding LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing — up 10 percentage points since 2015.

Support for nondiscrimination laws is also strongly bipartisan, according to the poll, with 67 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of independents, and 92 percent of Democrats favoring protections for LGBTQ+ Americans.


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