Reaction to 'Sexual Orientation' Protected in City Hiring Policy

By: Erin Myers Email
By: Erin Myers Email

A moment of triumph for LGBT leaders like Todd Ruhter quickly changed when Mayor Jay Vavricek vetoed the Grand Island City Council's 6-4 decision.

"It was a rapid change for us because what we had was a great sense of elation and accomplishment. We rapidly realized, as everyone did in the room, that the mood of the conversation had changed," said Ruhter.

Mayor Vavricek sighted the protection based on sexual orientation in the hiring process as being 'symbolic', which he says is not the role of government. Ultimately, a veto override passed in a vote 8-2, thanks to votes cast by council members who had previously voted against the original resolution.

"The resolution had passed on its own merit. And this veto would have diminished the voice and power of the council," said Ruhter.

A day after the vote, council members weren't available or refused to comment on camera, but in a statement councilwoman Linna Dee Donaldson says it comes down to this.

"I have benefited from being in a protected class and so have all women my age and younger. When I was growing up and deciding on careers, there were a lot of doors closed to women and often promotions were hard to come by. Some suggested last night that if discrimination isn't currently a problem we should just leave it alone. I would suggest that was the attitude of many at the time that women were seeking equality. I believe everyone deserves to be judged on their ability to do a job, and if that means we need an additional protected class, then we must do so." - Linna Dee Donaldson

A similar ordinance that would have been city-wide failed before City Council back on October 9th. Jill Liske-Clark, co-organizer of Central Nebraska Human Rights Coalition, says the vote was a step in the right direction, but more work still needs to be done.

"We're happy to have this small victory under our belts, but we know we have a lot of work in front of us if we are going to achieve our goal of having a broadly inclusive civil rights ordinance back in Grand Island," said Liske-Clark.

Sexual orientation joins the city's list of protections when applying for city jobs, which also includes race, color, relgion, sex, maritial status and mental or physical disabilities.

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