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Grand Island Council Rejects Gay Rights Ordinance

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP)

The Grand Island City Council rejected a proposed ordinance that would have extended anti-discrimination protection to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

The council on Tuesday voted 8-2 against the measure, which would have barred businesses from discriminating against current or prospective employees based on their sexual orientation. It would have also covered housing and retail situations.

Councilman Larry Carney pushed the measure, saying he’d been seeking “obvious justice” and simple fairness for everyone who lives in the south-central Nebraska city.

“Fair play and justice do count,” Carney said.

Councilman Mitch Nickerson, who voted against it, said that while he believes the city is tolerant, he thinks most residents oppose homosexuality and that the council would have been promoting it by adopting the proposed ordinance.

Nickerson said he checked with a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender support group and with Grand Police but wasn’t given any data or examples of hate crimes or discriminatory action.

Councilman Scott Dugan said the city had eliminated its human rights commission and a section of the city code that dealt with civil rights, and passing the ordinance would have given only homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people protection against bias.

State and federal laws bar discrimination based on race, ethnic origin and other factors in jobs, housing and other settings. But neither state nor federal laws expressly bar discrimination against homosexual, bisexual or transgender people.

Dugan also pointed out that the state Attorney General’s Office has said that municipalities lack authority to expand civil rights.

But Carney told Dugan: “You’re either against discrimination or for it. You can’t be both.”

In May, the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office issued a nonbinding opinion that local governments in Nebraska can’t adopt ordinances protecting people from discrimination for being homosexual, bisexual or transgender because the state’s anti-discrimination laws don’t extend to sexual orientation. It said voters can approve changes to city charters to extend such protections to groups not covered by state law.

A motion by Councilman Bob Niemann to put the ordinance on a citywide ballot failed on a tie vote.

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Associated Press

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