Freedom of Religion or Discrimination? Anti Gay Discrimination Law dies in legislation


Photo by Fred Knapp

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks addresses supporters of LB627 on March 5th, 2019. The bill did not pass. Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News

By Emily Price

Currently, it is illegal for small businesses in Nebraska to discriminate against employees based on their sex, religion, disability, marital status, or national origin.

However, it is completely legal for any Nebraska business to discriminate against, or fire, an employee because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

To change this, Nebraska Senator Patty Pansing Brooks recently proposed LB627, a bill that would add these groups of people to the existing protections.

On March 5th, the bill was effectively killed by the opposition’s two-day filibuster, removing it from consideration for the rest of the year.

(Filibustering is a prolonged speech or comments that prevent a bill from being voted on and/or passed.)

Comments from various senators were recorded via the Unicameral Update online.    

“The opponents are now avoiding a vote,” Pansing Brooks said, the senator who proposed LB627. “But I believe that for the first time ever, Nebraska, we have a majority in the body that would pass this if we could get to an actual vote, rather than a filibuster. That is heartening. That is hopeful.”

She added with a smile, “Bring on the baloney.”

The bill was not passed as there was not a vote, due to the filibuster. The opposition to the bill believes that LB627 would be a strain on religious freedom.

“To affirm what the Bible teaches, and Christians and Jews have affirmed for two thousand years is being called ‘hateful.’ That seems to me to be reverse discrimination,” Sen. Rob Clements said. “I believe all persons should be treated with respect. But being 68 years old, and this issue’s come up in the last 10 or 15 years, I think it’s too late to change my mind.” Many other senators agree with this viewpoint.

“Lawmakers should not pass laws that intentionally limit individuals’ or businesses’ ability to exercise the freedom to practice their deeply held beliefs,” Sen. Joni Albrecht said.

However, the supporters of this bill are not willing to give up quite yet.

Sen. Adam Morfeld responded to Sen. Albrecht, “You have the right to exercise your religion however you want. You just don’t have the right to impugn somebody else’s human dignity by firing them simply because they’re gay, because you’re uncomfortable with that, because you want to use the excuse of your religious liberty.”

The issue of discrimination of sexuality is not just an issue for our Nebraska community, it is relevant here at the High as well. Many students who identify as LBGTQA+ also have to work to support themselves and their families.

“I’m working a pretty low level job, and I’m pretty sure my employers aren’t homophobic, but I can’t speak for every other gay person that is employed,” one LHS student said. “Just because I don’t have to worry about it doesn’t mean that other people don’t.”

Another student added, “It would be a monumental step for the LGBTQ community if it passed, especially in Nebraska.”

This bill will remain dead, or unable to be voted on, for the rest of 2019. Supporters, however, still have hope to see new legislation being proposed and for an actual vote to take place.