Cloture attempt on nondiscrimination bill fails

After nearly eight hours of debate spanning two days, an attempt to force a vote on a bill that would extend Nebraska’s workplace nondiscrimination laws to include gay and transgender employees failed April 7.

LB485, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Danielle Conrad, would prohibit employers, employment agencies and labor organizations from discriminating against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill would apply to employers having 15 or more employees, employers with state contracts, the state of Nebraska, governmental agencies and political subdivisions.

Current law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, marital status or national origin.

A pending Judiciary Committee amendment would add the terms “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the proposed bill. Gender identity would be defined as the actual or perceived appearance, expression, identity or behavior of an individual, whether or not that appearance, expression, identity or behavior is different from the individual’s assigned sex at birth. Sexual orientation would be defined as actual or perceived homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality.

The amendment also would broaden the religious exemptions in the bill to include religious organizations such as schools, colleges, universities or other educational institutions.

Conrad said 20 states and 180 communities already have approved measures similar to LB485, and a majority of Nebraskans support the bill.

“In the workplace, people should be judged on merit, qualifications and performance,” she said. “It’s time for Nebraska to move forward and send a message across this country that we’re open for business to all who are willing to work hard and play by the rules.”

Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy spoke in opposition to the bill, saying it would force employers to tolerate lifestyles that their religions condemn.

“Our state government should not be in charge of telling small business owners who have religious objections to check their religious faith at the door of their homes when they leave for work in the morning,” he said.

Conrad offered a motion to invoke cloture, or cease debate and take an immediate vote on the bill. The motion failed 26-22. Thirty-three votes were needed.

A failed cloture motion prevents further debate on the bill for the day. LB485 is unlikely to be scheduled for further debate this session.

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