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Nebraska lawmakers reaffirm support for narrower pro-gay law

Nebraska lawmakers reaffirm support for narrower pro-gay law

After rejecting a broad antidiscrimination ban, Nebraska lawmakers on Thursday reaffirmed their support for a more limited policy protecting gay workers. On a 25-11 vote, the legislature approved a ban on discrimination against gay employees at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Creighton University, and Boys Town National Research Hospital. The ban had been approved earlier in the session, but it had to be voted on again because the original bill was not in line to pass. The ban was added to a budget bill (LB426) before it was advanced to the final round. All four institutions said they already have policies covering sexual orientation discrimination. Even so, says the bill's sponsor, Sen. Ernie Chambers, the legislature's action is important because it provides an explicit prohibition in state law. Before Thursday's vote, Sen. Mike Foley explained his dislike of the ban, saying he thought it was part of an agenda to legitimize the "gay lifestyle." "We don't need that agenda," Foley said. Despite his opposition to the bill, Foley said, he is not a gay basher, because he enjoys the music of Elton John even though the performer is gay. The ban is needed, said Sen. Lowen Kruse, because gay people are clearly discriminated against in society. Thursday's vote in support of the bill came a day after lawmakers voted 23-12, two short of the 25 needed, on a broader policy outlawing discrimination against gays working for the state. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Seven additional states have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in public workplaces only, according to the gay rights group Lambda Legal. State government should not concern itself with a person's private life, and it especially should not discriminate based on whether a person is gay, said Chambers, who sponsored both measures. Another Chambers bill, which is stuck in the judiciary committee, would ban gay discrimination in any workplace in the state. Nebraska law prohibits workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, or national origin. Chambers wants to add sexual orientation to the list. (AP)

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