A study session at the Grand Island City Council proved to be more of a discussion of civil liberties than city code. Councilman Larry Carney proposed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation that caused even the mayor to weigh in.
You might remember this as a familiar argument, a few months back Omaha and Lincoln were having similar discussions. The issue at fault is a lack of laws on the books protecting sexual orientation as a form of discrimination under current city and state statute.
Although, both the United States and Nebraska law prohibits discrimination against persons who are members of protected classes such as race, religion, and ethnic origin. The State of Nebraska does not consider sexual orientation to be a protected class and thus offer protection to persons suffering discrimination as a result of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.
That means, if you live in Grand Island currently, you can be denied housing, a job or even be removed from your position if you are gay because your employer or landlord doesn't like it.
It's a heated issue that currently is under duress in Omaha. After public backlash, the amendment has been taken to a vote of the people. Their initiative will be decided on November 6th. In Grand Island, the issue could be decided on Tuesday, October 9.
Carney, despite many council members including the mayor asking for more time, has requested the item go to vote next Tuesday in front of the council. The council can vote down the amendment, approve it, or bring it to the public for vote.
Three residents spoke in favor of creating an amendment to protect sexual orientation.
The City Council next Tuesday will also consider changing housing requirements of department heads.
Currently, there is confusion over what current city law states when it comes to how far outside city limits department heads can live. Although, law states no department head can live eight miles outside of limits, zoning language in the law created a two mile addition or confusion, however you want to see it.
Ultimately, the city has required department heads live within 12 miles of city limits, or 10 miles of the "zoning jurisdiction," based upon precedent they may have inadvertently set years ago.