NebraskaFilibuster

Recently in Nebraska an anti-discrimination law lost to a filibuster.  The law, LB485, was an LGBT anti-discrimination law that would protect members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community from discrimination in employment. 

It would have made it illegal for a labor organization, employer or employment agency to refuse to hire a person based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.  This bill would not have applied to religious organizations but would have applied to businesses with more than 15 employees, state and local governments as well as employers who had a state contract.  Nebraska already has laws banning discrimination against race, color, religion, sex, disability, marital status or national origin.  There was a filibuster designed to kill the bill. 

A filibuster, or “talking out a bill,” is a parliamentary procedure where debate is extended, allowing one or more members to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal.  Filibusters are used to extend debates or to stall votes.  They can also be used to prevent motions from proceeding, stopping the bills from being debated at all.  Conservative lawmakers filibustered the bill, debating that the bill could cause small businesses to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills.

Opponents said the measure would have trampled on employers’ religious freedoms and put businesses at risk of lawsuits.  They said that while the bill protected those specific religious organizations, it did not protect employers who still have religious objections to homosexuality but are not a religious organization.  Others argued that employers should be able to establish standards for employees’ sexual behavior, and questioned the need for the proposed legal protection.  The opposition said that the bill would intrude on the religious right of all business owners.

Supporters of the bill debated that it was the right thing to do because people should not be fired or passed over for promotions because of who they are or whom they love.  They called the proposal a matter of ethics and good business.  Others also said that the bill would help to attract socially minded companies to the state as well as help to stem the state’s brain drain.  Many supporters also agree, however, that, even though the bill lost, it was still a big step for the LGBT community in Nebraska because of the close vote.  They have hope for the future of similar legislation.

Sixteen states, including Iowa and Colorado, have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Four other states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation only.

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