Fairness Ordinance returns to Lincoln City Council

The update would specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and military and veteran status.
Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 10:26 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -Lincoln residents gave testimony over the fairness ordinance in front of the Lincoln City Council on Monday. While it had a lot of support, not everyone spoke in favor of the changes.

The proposed ordinance revises part of Lincoln’s 66-page equal opportunity ordinance. Dozens went down to the city council to have their voices heard on Monday.

The ordinance, proposed by councilwoman Sandra Washington, has been in limbo for ten years and is back with broader language.

Councilwoman Washington said it’s time to update Lincoln’s Title 11 Code, and that this puts the city in line with recent legal rulings in regards to equal opportunity.

At the Lincoln City Council Chambers, supporters said an updated ordinance has been a long time coming.

“The proposed revisions will help Lincoln retain and attract a sufficient and talented workforce,” said supporter, Debra DiBernard. “During my 33 years of teaching at UNL I’ve worked with a number of remarkable young people who were born in Nebraska but did not stay after college because of the repressed atmosphere.

The update would specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and military and veteran status.

“I want to keep these young people here who are transgender have a different gender or sexual identity than is mainstream and I just feel very strongly from my heart that this is the place that we can do that,” said Angela Garvacz, supporter.

It’s been one of Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird’s goals since taking office.

“I want to be able to go home and tell my kids and kids all across the community,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said. “I want to go home and promise them that they can grow in this community feeling respected and safe and enjoy a true sense of belonging.”

But the testimony Monday, which lasted hours, was split.

“Anybody, no matter what they say their sexual orientation is, has every right that I have,” said opponent, Andrew Watson. “What their asking for is an additional right. They’re asking for some new thing long recognized as a crime to be added to those list of things that they wish to be able to do with the sanction of society.”

Others want to see the ordinance on ballots to let the people of Lincoln decide.

“One of the City Council members was quoted as this is the right thing to do,” said opponent, Samuel Lyon. “Well I think the right thing to do would be to put it to a vote of the people let the people decide.”

Council members will vote on how to proceed with the fairness ordinance next Monday.

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