As expected, Attorney General Jon Bruning’s office weighed in on March’s controversial City Council vote to protect gay and transgender residents from discrimination.
In a legal opinion, Bruning said state law does not grant cities the authority to create new protected classes. Bruning’s office wrote that cities only have power to create ordinances that pertain to protected classes defined by state law. Those include gender, marital status, race and national origin.
The memo, released Friday, would not overturn the council’s amendments to anti-discrimination laws, City Attorney Paul Kratz said. City attorneys also disagree with Bruning’s arguments.
Still, the opinion from the Attorney General’s Office could embolden groups opposed to the law that might seek to have it overturned in court or at the ballot box. Al Riskowski, head of the Nebraska Family Council, warned Omaha could be targeted by lawsuits if it tries to enforce the law.
Now the country’s largest gay rights advocacy organization has weighed in.
“Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning’s opinion is motivated by politics rather than sound law,” said Sarah Warbelow, the state legislative director for the Human Rights Campaign.
“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,” Warbelow said.
Bruning is also the Republican front-runner in Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race.
Stick with us for updates. As always, you’re welcome to sound off with your views here.