By Nataly Tavidian, Grand Island/Hastings Reporter - email
Volunteers for the Central Nebraska Human Rights Coalition are saying they are pleased with a recently introduced bill that looks to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the work place.
"Nebraskans already understand that you should be judged in the workplace strictly on your job performance, not on the color of your skin, your personal beliefs, or your gender," said Jill Liske-Clark. "Sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on a person's ability to contribute in the workplace."
Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln introduced LB 485 to lawmakers. The bill would make it illegal to not hire or promote an individual based on their sexual orientation. The bill would also make it illegal to fire someone for the same reason.
Currently employees are protected based on classes such as race, gender, marital status, and age, but not on sexual orientation. "I know people personally with those fears that keep their sexual orientation in the closet because they fear they'd be treated differently at work," said Jill Liske-Clark.
Sen. Conrad said her bill would "just provide those same set of equal rights to people under the basis of sexual orientation that exist to those other classifications."
In the midst of the heated debates in Grand Island on a similar measure last fall, Gov. Dave Heineman weighed in. He said, "We should not give special rights to any one category in that regard; you got to be real careful. It's going to set up a lot of lawsuit, it will hurt small businesses."
Advocates say this is not an issue of morality, it's an issue of equality.
Liske-Clark said, "In this day in age if you want to attract the best and brightest employees you need to project an image of inclusivity and welcome–ness." Inclusion is what Sen. Conrad says the proposed legislation would provide.
She said, "Nobody does deserve special rights within the workplace; this legislation is about equal rights for all Nebraskans, not special rights for anyone."
The Grand Island City Council recently looked at this same issue, which was voted down last fall. However, the council did put in place a similar discrimination ban for the hiring of city employees.