Nebraska AG Plays Politics with LGBT Non-Discrimination Protections
May 4, 2012 by Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has released a legal opinion in which he says Omaha’s sexual orientation and gender identity non-discrimination protections are improper. Bruning said state law does not permit for cities to expand protections beyond what the state already covers.
Unfortunately, Bruning's opinion is motivated by politics rather than sound law. Unlike states such as Oklahoma or Virginia, Nebraska does not have a legal tradition of restricting municipal actions. Fortunately, the Attorney General's opinion is purely advisory and is not binding on the municipalities or the courts. It will, however, provide fuel to the opponents of equality who would like to challenge Omaha's recent non-discrimination ordinance in court.
States can generally be divided into two categories: 'home-rule states' and 'Dillon’s Rule states.' The former provides for strong and independent municipal government, while the latter emphasizes the state legislatures control over municipalities. Legislatures are increasingly unwilling to expressly overrule municipalities. But last year, Tennessee adopted a state law that explicitly prohibits municipalities from passing ordinances that extend beyond state law - the underlying intent to curtail protections for LGBT people. This legislative term, Nebraska considered a similar bill but it did not move. We are hopeful that Nebraska will ultimately avoid such attempts to undermine protections and divide communities.
Nebraska’s non-discrimination laws do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Learn more about state laws that impact LGBT people at www.hrc.org/laws-and-legislation/state.
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