Grand Island will not become the next Nebraska city to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Ordinance 9407 was drafted at the request of Grand Island council member Larry Carney last week.
It would have protected people from being denied employment, housing, or public accommodation because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
It's a topic that's generated a lot of discussion, including whether or not such a law is valid.
Resident Brian Whitecalf says he's been talking with the city about the need for a sexual orientation protection ordinance for a few months now.
"People are treated unfairly. They're being discriminated against. Some face violence, some have been persecuted to the point where they're suicidal; and someone needs to step up and say that this is wrong and we need to do something about it," he said.
Whitecalf spoke at Tuesday night's city council meeting, saying he's been lucky not to have been discriminated against in the workplace as a gay man.
Grand Island joins cities like Omaha and Lincoln in exploring so-called "fairness ordinances."
"As far as enforcement of those types of laws, there really isn't a lot of criminal enforcement of it," said Bob Sivick, G.I. city attorney. "Essentially what the enforcement takes the form of is a civil lawsuit."
But, ordinance 9407 would only protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, leaving one council member to wonder about expanding the protection of other classes.
"I worked the last decade in the behavioral health field, and I know firsthand hundreds of people who are discriminated against every day for mental illness and addiction. How come they're not being brought forward as a protected class?" asked Scott Dugan.
With only a week of discussion, Dugan says it's not a matter of law interpretation, but rather a question that needs more time to be answered.
"I think more importantly we need to know, is this something we should be doing right now as a community," he said.
The Nebraska Attorney General's Office has said cities have no authority to make such rules, but Sivick says Nebraska statute does provide that.
"I take that to mean, and the city attorneys in Omaha and Lincoln have taken that to mean, that cities are entitled to expand the list of protected classes for civil rights," he said.
More than a dozen people spoke, for and against the ordinance at Grand Island's council meeting.
Many said the ordinance is long overdue. One business owner said, although he supports equality, he thinks 9407 will be bad for business. Another man against the ordinance stated he did not want the city to support "immorality."
After more than two hours of discussion, the ordinance failed by a vote of 2-8.
Council members Linna Dee Donaldson and Larry Carney were the only ones to vote in favor of the policy.