Lincoln anti-bias law sits on books, unenforced

As Lincoln’s gay community celebrates its four-day Star City Pride festival, the city’s stalled anti-discrimination ordinance meant to protect gay and transgender residents appears to be heading nowhere fast.

The ordinance, which would protect gays, lesbians and transgender individuals from discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing, was approved by the City Council in May 2012.

But a successful petition drive, sponsored by a number of conservative Protestant churches and the community’s Catholic churches, required the Lincoln City Council to repeal the ordinance or put it to a citywide vote.

There was no deadline for council action, and the council has taken none. So the ordinance remains on the books, but unenforced.

Council Chairman Carl Eskridge, who sponsored the ordinance, told the Lincoln Journal Star ( that he expects the council to put the issue to a public vote, but doesn’t know when.

Eskridge said Lincoln’s gay community “took a break” from pushing a vote on the local law because it was troubled after a Lincoln woman lied about being attacked by masked men who carved anti-gay slurs into her skin. The woman, Charlie Rogers, was convicted of lying to police and sentenced earlier this year to a week in jail. Police have said Rogers faked the attack because she thought it would inspire change in the treatment of gay people.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last month striking down part of an anti-gay marriage law has also played into waning interest in putting the Lincoln law on the ballot, Eskridge said.

The community group that led support for the ordinance is not pushing for an election.

“I think there are still a lot of good intentions from the City Council and mayor’s office. There has been a lot of excitement in the wake of the Supreme Court decision,” Tyler Richard, president of OutLinc, a local social, education and advocacy organization, told the newspaper. “But I think it is a little too early for me to say where that (local anti-bias ordinance) is going to be headed.”

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