Lincoln City Council to Consider Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

It's called the workplace fairness ordinance. The Omaha City Council passed a similar ordinance in March of this year. Now the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender)community hopes the Lincoln City Council does the same here.

The Lincoln groups say they're not following Omaha, they've been following this issue for more than a year. Supporters say the workplace fairness ordinance is necessary to ensure everyone feels safe where ever they work.

Morgan Watters knows what it's like to be discriminated against.

Watters tells 10/11, "After I was at an event supporting gays and lesbians, my boss found out about it and I was immediately fired."

She say the news hit her like a ton of bricks. Now she hopes others don't have to endure the same fears she has.

Watters adds, "When you apply you have to think who is my manager going to be, what do they think, what can I and can't I say, can I be myself at work."

Lincoln City Council Member Carl Eskridge hopes to make sure others don't have to endure what Watters went through. The workplace fairness ordinance would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of people protected by law from discrimination. Those protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, familial status, ancestry and marital status.

During a press conference Lincoln City Council Member Carl Eskridge explained how the ordinance would be modified, "We just add that language to the already existing protected class in the discrimination ordinance."

But the Nebraska Family Council, who opposed the Omaha ordinance and opposes this proposed change in Lincoln, doesn't feel putting it into city ordinance is necessary.

President Al Riskowski said, "I would really like to see Lincoln take the lead and show how a community can work together to stop discrimination in a community, without having to create more laws, create problems for business, create problems for local churches."

Riskowski maintains even though he opposes the ordinance change, he does not want people to be discriminated against. He feels there are other ways this can be accomplished.

The President of the Nebraska Family Council also has concern for how you define "gender identity." He says some council members in Omaha who didn't support the ordinance, struggled with the definition and what it meant. Riskowski thinks it will come up in Lincoln too.

During the press conference, supporters of the ordinance say the change would be good for business. At least one local business owner says she supports change for fairness.

Jenn Bassen is the Owner Paint Yourself Silly. She says, "I'm against discrimination of any kind and I think people should be judged on their abilities and their work qualities, and that nothing else should come into play."

Kim Coleman owns Indigo Books in the Haymarket and also supports the the ordinance change. She said, "It's my responsibility to provide a supportive environment in which capable, skilled staff members feel affirmed and free to maximize their talents and contributions."

Riskowski disagrees, "I think when you create a protected class, you create an opportunity for lawsuits and you have to protect yourself against that, that's the difficulty."

He says businesses in the Omaha area were worried this could happen and he expects the same to happen in Lincoln.

Councilman Eskridge says he plans on introducing the ordinance to the full Lincoln City Council on Monday, April 30th. Eskridge says before Thursday's announcement, he talked to other council members and while they're not all in agreement, he expects to get support for the ordinance.


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