Beutler: Not sure how state LGBT bill would affect Lincoln vote

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler said Monday even if Nebraska lawmakers approve a bill banning job discrimination based on sexual orientation, that doesn’t necessarily mean Lincoln won’t vote on a similar city ordinance that was referred to a vote two years ago.

Mayor Chris Beutler

In the spring of 2011, the Lincoln City Council passed an ordinance that would have extended civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, opponents of the ordinance gathered four times the number of signatures necessary to refer the ordinance to a vote.

That vote has not yet happened, and in January, the councilman who sponsored the gay rights ordinance, Carl Eskridge, suggested a vote might not be needed if Sen. Danielle Conrad’s bill were passed by the Legislature.

Conrad’s bill, which was being filibustered Monday, only bans discrimination in the workplace, but the city ordinance also provided protection for housing and required public accommodation.

In an interview on Monday, Beutler noted those two areas that are different from Conrad’s bill.

“I’m not sure what we would do,” he said regarding passage or failure of Conrad’s bill.

Eskridge said in January that there was some talk of putting the Lincoln proposal on the November ballot.

Beutler attended a press conference on Monday in support of Conrad’s bill, saying Lincoln is thriving and gaining national attention for its low unemployment and business environment, but needs to be “open for business” in terms of being open to lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgendered people.

Nebraska’s lack of LGBT protections can put it at a disadvantage in attracting business, he said. He urged the Legislature to be a “shining example of something that is right in this country.”

Beutler, a former longtime state senator, said he opposes the way the filibuster is being used in the Legislature to require controversial bills to have a super-majority of 33 votes.

When he was in the Legislature, he said the filibuster was mostly used by Sen. Ernie Chambers (the undisputed king of the filibuster). But now it’s increasingly being used by many others to stop bills.

Beutler said he’s long thought it an abuse of the Democratic process to have such a difficult threshold for cloture votes, especially when the Legislature is so heavily dominated by one party.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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