OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska’s state motto may be Equality Before the Law, but according to the Human Rights Campaign, the state is far from hitting that mark for the LGBT+ community.
The campaign classifies the work needing to be done as "high priority to achieve basic equality."
Abbi Swatsworth, Executive Director for Out Nebraska, a statewide advocacy group, says this low rating is not surprising.
“I’ve been following the scores for the last several years, and so I didn’t expect much to have changed," said Swatsworth.
Right now, banning conversion therapy is a top priority for LGBT+ advocates. This is a type of counseling that aims to change or repress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, with minors usually being the target.
“It’s not evidence based and it actually causes harm to young people," Swatsworth said. "It increases their likelihood of suicide and substance use, and it’s just traumatic.”
Senator Megan Hunt has introduced a bill that would prohibit licensed medical professionals from providing conversion therapy to anyone under 19. This does not apply to unlicensed religious counselors.
Advocates are also looking to make simple changes to make Nebraska more welcoming. Though marriage equality has been legal under federal law since 2015, Senator Patty Pansing Brooks has introduced a bill that would remove language from Nebraska’s constitution defining marriage as being between a man and woman.
“Much like we recently removed language about slavery from the constitution, we’d like to remove that unenforceable language about marriage," Swatsworth said.
Taking steps toward equality is not just about supporting those that live here now. It's also about making Nebraska a more desirable place to live for the future.
“All of that lifts up the reputation of Nebraska and helps position us as a more welcoming, open to diversity state," Swatsworth said.
Pro- LGBT+ bills in Nebraska legislature:
- LB120 Prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LB229 Enhances penalties for crimes committed because of gender identity. Sexual orientation was already on the list.
- LB230 Prohibits housing discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
- LB231 Prohibits conversion therapy by licensed medical professionals for those under 19. This does not include unlicensed religious counselors.
- LB517 Allows for gender neutral markers on IDs and birth certificates.
- LR20CA Would remove language from Nebraska's State Constitution saying that marriage is between a man and a woman. This is unenforceable language because of the 2015 Supreme Court decision which legalized same-sex marriage.