- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska lawmakers introduced three bills Wednesday that would ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, but even supporters noted they face a tough fight in gaining approval for the proposals.

About 100 supporters of the bills, displaying blue and yellow equal sign stickers, rallied at the Capitol as legislators explained why they back the changes.

“It’s a civil rights issue that I think at some point soon will become an embarrassing memory of our past,” said Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, who co-sponsored all three bills.

However Brooks acknowledged gaining passage of the bill wouldn’t be easy.

“I pledge that I will continue to take a stand and continue to fight the battle with my colleagues,” she said.

The bills would prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity; allow two adults to adopt a child jointly, regardless of marital status; and bar sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination when placing children in foster care

Representatives from ConAgra Foods and independent record label Saddle Creek Records, of Omaha, attended the rally.

“Workplace equality is no-cost no-hassle policy for us that fosters open atmosphere which truly allows everyone to stay focused on their jobs and their performance, rather than be distracted by the fear of being fired for who they are, or who they love,” said Jeff Beck, finance director at Saddle Creek Records.

Chris Kircher, vice president of corporate affairs of ConAgra and president of ConAgra Foods Foundation, said offering equal benefits for LGBT employees and adopting anti-discriminatory policies simply made sense.

“It’s the right thing to do, and it also makes good business,” Kircher said.

Barbara Baier and Lin Quenzer of Lincoln discussed the need for the child adoption bill, noting the challenges of raising a 15-year-old without such a law.

Baier is the legal parent of her son, but Quenzer isn’t allowed to also adopt him. She calls herself a “legal stranger” who can’t sign papers at his school or take him to the dentist. Under current laws, if Baier died, Quenzer would not be guaranteed custody of the child they raised.

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, who sponsored the foster care bill, said Nebraska is in a welfare crisis and more than 4,000 children need out-of-home placements.

“We need to make sure that all available placements that can protect and support these vulnerable children should be welcomed and affirmed in our state, not set to the side,” he said.

A similar bill was voted out of committee last year but died in the Legislature.

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