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February 6, 2013 By Hanna Vasina Federal laws in the United States protect against most forms of workplace discrimination,

however for the gay community it is up to the state to provide protection. Within the state of Nebraska, Omaha is the only city that offers protection to its gay, bisexual and transgender residents. The ordinance was passed by Omaha City Council in a 4-3 decision on March 13, 2012 adding sexual orientation and transgender status to the citys preexisting laws that prohibited discrimination based on race, religion and marital status. You dont realize how far behind on the times Nebraska is until you go someplace else. It was about time that Nebraska start gaining some rights for gays, former Nebraska citizen Andrew Martinez. After the ordinance was passed one Omaha group called the Liberty project set out to petition for a repeal, which would allow the city of Omaha to vote on whether gays and transsexuals would retain the protection against discrimination. The petition needed approximately 11,400 legible signatures in order to be placed on the ballot of the May election. As of February 1, 2013 the petition failed to gain enough signatures. The Liberty Project plans to continue their efforts to petition the ordinance citing a violation for the publics right to free speech and freedom of religion as their reason for opposition. Omaha is not the only city who is working to introduce anti-discrimination ordinances into their legal system. Following Omahas example, Lincoln introduced and passed an antidiscrimination ordinance on May 14, 2012. Like Omaha, much of Lincolns population disapproved of the ordinance and a petition was launched. The petition received twice the required number of signatures in 10 days to put the ordinance to a public vote. Due to the uproar of opposition, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler suggested a repeal of the ordinance. He instead urged Lincoln residents to vote on an amendment to the city charter be place on the ballot. The amendment would grant the same rights as the ordinance. Although the final decision on the future of Lincolns anti-discrimination ordinance remains unclear many Lincoln businesses continue to offer new rights to their gay and transgender employees rights. The University of Nebraska joined all the other Big Ten Schools on June 8, 2012, in providing benefit to domestic partners of their employees. University president J.B. Milliken said the decision is essential to gaining and retain talents, as well as being the right thing to do for the universitys employees. Milliken hopes that by offering these rights the university remains a competitive employer amongst other universities. Gregory Ward, member of Lincolns gay community, hopes that policies like this become common in the workplace. I know I may not ever be able to marry my partner, but I would like to think that if he ever gets sick or needs help that my benefits would help him out, Ward said. Currently there are several statewide groups pushing for more ordinances like the antidiscrimination ordinance to help protect and give rights to citizens like Ward. The organizations include the Citizens for Equal Protection, Nebraska Advocates for Justice and Equality, Outlinc

and the Cornhusker Chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also known as PFLAG. These organizations are encouraging work environments to become more educated on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender discrimination issues in order to better prevent future issues among employees as well as to help gain support for any future legislation that may be introduced. Additionally many of these organizations work together to campaign nation wide in hopes of getting Federal anti-discrimination laws passed. Thus far the Federal legislation continues to reject laws that would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or sexual identity, but each year more members of Congress vote in support of such bills. While the gay community in Nebraska will have to continue to wait for more stable means of protection against discrimination, for the time being the Omaha and Lincoln antidiscrimination ordinances remain in place. I hope something changes. Gays deserve rights too, Ward said.