Council readies for gay rights ordinance


February 28th, 2012

Omaha, NE – Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray will introduce a proposal today to expand legal protections to Omaha’s gay, lesbian and transgender community.

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Omaha currently has no laws that protect people against discrimination based on sexual orientation. But there are protections based on race, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, age or disability. Gray’s proposal would simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to that protected list.

Councilman Ben Gray will re-introduce his ordinance extending discrimination protections to LGBT people Tuesday. (Photo by Lindsey Peterson)

“We’re talking about citizens who start businesses, who protect and serve our country, who serve on our police and fire and city government operations,” Gray said in an interview with KVNO News. “We’re talking about people who hire people; we’re talking about people who provide and pay for goods and services, (who) provide resources to our economy… So they should have the same rights as everyone else.”

Gray introduced a similar proposal in 2010, but it deadlocked on a 3-3 vote. He said he won’t speculate on the odds the proposal will pass this time around. But he says some of the “language issues” that stalled it before have been cleared up. In particular, he’s added an exemption for religious organizations.

“So I think the ordinance is clearer, and it’s more definitive as to who, and how, they’re exempt, who is included, why they’re included and it encourages protection for the GLBT community,” Gray said.

Gray’s ordinance recently got some scientific backing. The University of Nebraska Medical Center released a survey last week showing many gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in the state do feel discriminated against.

Gray plans to re-introduce his ordinance at the City Council Tuesday. A public hearing is scheduled for March 6th. And if there are no delays, the council’s vote could come as early as March 13th.

Read the full ordinance here.

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