Late today the leading Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate said he personally opposes the gay rights ordinance passed in Omaha and being considered in Lincoln.
Attorney General Jon Bruning refused to answer Nebraska Watchdog’s inquiry about his personal position on the issue for four days, until today, when his campaign manager, Trent Fellers, finally responded saying, “In addition to it being unconstitutional, he doesn’t support it.”
Both state Sen. Deb Fischer and State Treasurer Don Stenberg told Nebraska Watchdog on Friday that they oppose the ordinances, which protect gay and transgendered people from discrimination.
Bruning has been accused of politicizing the issue by issuing an attorney general’s opinion last week that Lincoln and Omaha are violating state statutes by passing such ordinances. Omaha Councilman Ben Gray and some Lincoln city officials implied that Bruning’s legal analysis was politically motivated, with an eye toward nabbing conservative Republican votes on Tuesday.
Assistant Attorney General Dale Comer drafted the opinion in consultation with Bruning and other attorneys in his office, according to Bruning’s spokeswoman.
However, some political observers question whether Bruning personally opposes the legislation, given the fact that he is a member of a well-known progressive Lincoln church, First Plymouth whose senior pastor, the Rev. Jim Keck, has publicly supported Lincoln’s ordinance. The church has a group called Plymouth Pride that is concerned with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered issues.
Gray said during Lincoln’s public hearing on the ordinance Monday that Bruning’s opinion was a “red herring,” noting that Sen. Beau McCoy asked for the opinion on Wednesday and received it the very next day.
“I think the conflict lies in the attorney general’s office,” Gray said. “Do we really think they offered an opinion that quickly? Do we really think that… this is something other than some sort of political issue that someone is trying to raise to thwart us or throw us off the path?”
The timing of the opinion was certainly speedy: The head of the Nebraska Family Council told Nebraska Watchdog on Wednesday that it expected an attorney general’s opinion that day or Thursday. But when contacted by Watchdog about that possibility on Wednesday, McCoy said he knew nothing about a pending attorney general’s opinion.
But when the opinion was released Thursday, the document said the request for it came from McCoy. The Nebraska Family Council can’t request an attorney general’s opinion, but state lawmakers can. McCoy said today that he asked for the opinion later Wednesday and received it the next day.
That’s a quick turnaround: Stenberg said he waited nine months for an opinion from Bruning’s office.
McCoy said today that nobody asked him to ask for the attorney general’s opinion. He said he and his staff just decided it was an issue they would continue to work on in the interim after he failed to get a bill passed this session restricting cities from passing such ordinances. McCoy also said he didn’t believe the timing of Bruning’s opinion had anything to do with the upcoming election.
“I don’t think it has any relevance at all,” McCoy said.
Reported by Deena Winter, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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