Grand Island approves LGBT ordinance


November 15th, 2012

Omaha, NE – The city of Grand Island joined Omaha and Lincoln Tuesday by approving an ordinance to protect gay and lesbian people from discrimination. The ordinance is a watered-down version of one that failed last month.

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In October, the Grand Island City Council rejected a proposal that would have protected gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination throughout the city – by retailers, employers or landlords. Tuesday, a more limited version was approved that will extend protections only to city employees.

Councilman Chuck Haase said October’s version was unacceptable because it would have created a protected class for the whole city. “The issue (passed Tuesday) was just about the city of Grand Island as an employer,” Haase said. “So it would only affect just the employment for the city and no other employer in Grand Island.”

Grand Island City Councilman Chuck Haase (Courtesy photo)

The council initially passed the ordinance on a vote of 6-4, but then faced a veto by Grand Island Mayor Jay Vavricek. Haase first voted against the ordinance and then switched his vote to help override that veto. “I was against approving it as a city creating a protected class,” Hasse said, “because everything I hear and understand is it’s really a state or national level issue and not a local issue.”

But he voted to override the Mayor’s veto “because I do believe that the council has the responsibility to make the decision, and they did,” he said.

Haase said he believes the ordinance is only a “moral victory” for the LGBT community, as it leaves all other businesses and landlords off the hook. But Grand Island City Councilwoman Linna Dee Donaldson, who voted for the ordinance, said big or small, this is the right step for Grand Island.

Grand Island Councilwoman Linna Dee Donaldson (Courtesy photo)

“I was trying to figure out how I could relate to the feelings,” Donaldson said, “and it occurred to me that I have benefited from being in a protected class.”

“When I was growing up, there were a lot of doors closed to women, options were limited,” Donaldson said, “and there were people (Tuesday) night who felt like if there isn’t a problem in hiring practices, if nobody is complaining about discrimination, then we shouldn’t worry about it.”

“That is exactly the same feeling that people had when we were seeking equality for women,” she said.

Haase and Donaldson agree that eventually, on a state or national level, a protected class will be created to help stop discrimination. But they added the city of Grand Island has been fair, open and non-discriminatory in its hiring practices.

By passing the ordinance, the Grand Island City Council followed the lead of both Lincoln and Omaha’s city councils, which passed similar ordinances earlier this year. Lincoln’s ordinance failed to be enacted after a successful petition drive stopped it.

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