Another session of the Nebraska legislature has ended. And the Thomas More Society attorneys have been very active and successful – particularly behind the scenes – in protecting faith-filled Nebraskans’ rights to live according to their consciences.
LB 173: Political Coercion, not Anti-Discrimination Protection.
For a third year in a row, Thomas More Society-Omaha attorneys have played a key role in defeating a dangerous bill disguised as a nondiscrimination law. If passed, LB 173 would have enshrined LGBT status as one of very few protected classes. It would have given LGBT people privileged rights to force any employer to defend itself against expensive “discrimination” law suits. LB 173 also would have threatened many other businesses with lawsuits as well, since it also affected “public accommodations” (virtually any business open to the public). LB 173 did not even provide a meaningful exemption for religious organizations such as Christian churches or Catholic schools and parishes.
Protected class status is a drastic legal approach, historically reserved only for widespread, institutionalized and demonstrable discrimination … as had been the case with racial discrimination in America when race was added as a protected class in the 1960s. Yet there does not seem to be a single serious report claiming statistically verifiable discrimination against LGBT people. (See Ryan Anderson, “How to Think About SOGI Policies and Religious Freedom,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 2-13-17, at 6-7.) In the years the issue has been presented before the Nebraska legislature, not a single report has been presented concerning statistics on discrimination against LGBT people. There have been extremely few unverified anecdotes or allegations of discrimination.
Since there has been no showing whatsoever of any need to enshrine LGBT as a protected class, LB 173 apparently is intended purely to make a political statement: an attempt to coerce all Nebraskans to genuflect to a trending LGBT political ideology. Repeated votes have shown this ideology to be morally unacceptable to most Nebraskans.
The Thomas More Society’s Response
Proponents of LB 173 claim the bill has to do with eliminating discrimination. Whether some or many of the proponents believe that, a strong coalition of Nebraskans — including many state Senators — realized early that the bill has little to do with correcting discrimination, but everything to do with coercion.
The Thomas More Society worked closely with the Nebraska Catholic Conference and Nebraskans for Founders’ Values, as well as with the Nebraska Family Alliance.
For the second legislative session, the Thomas More Society drafted the key legal analysis of the bill, pointing out the significant legal weaknesses inherent in it. The TMS analysis was widely distributed to legislators and citizens. TMS attorney Matt Heffron testified before the Nebraska Senate Judiciary Committee and was interviewed in the press. TMS attorneys also participated on a tour of the Nebraska arranged by Nebraskans for Founders’ Values to present the legal analysis to various citizens’ groups.
A Difficult but Important Legislative Battle
This is a difficult fight for many reasons. The proponents of this bill are backed by politically powerful, money-fueled interests, many from outside Nebraska. A number of national businesses have caved on this issue in liberal states and now tend to require subordinates elsewhere to toe the company line. And the proponents of such bills often resort to labeling opponents as haters and bigots if they do not agree with the proponents’ particular political opinions. Even the targeted terms in the bill present a stumbling block for some: none of us promotes unfair “discrimination.” Media consistently misreports the bedrock issues involved.
Yet more than 50 % of states have resisted this coercion, despite such an onslaught of abuse. Primarily liberal and economically underperforming states have caved to this ideology, a group Nebraska should not emulate. Nebraska surprisingly seems to be a battleground for such issues, despite its large, active Catholic population, which works cohesively with other Christian and conservative groups: perhaps because, if Nebraska can be undermined, any state could.
One reason we are so diligent on bills like is because we know once they are passed, they would be extremely difficult – perhaps nearly impossible – to overturn. It is one thing to oppose the granting of special preferences for a particular group of people. But it is entirely another thing to remove them once granted.