About one-third of gay and transgender residents in the Omaha metropolitan area reported job discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to an online questionnaire conducted by University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers.
The questionnaire's conclusions are expected to become new fodder in the debate over City Councilman Ben Gray's proposal to amend the city's anti-discrimination ordinances to prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender residents. Scheduled for formal introduction on Feb. 28, the proposal has reignited a debate among religious groups and business and political interests.
The findings, which were released this week, come from a 67-question UNMC survey of gay and transgender Nebraska residents in 2010.
Proponents of Gray's proposal say the results quantify the need to amend the city ordinances.
“In 2010 there were members of the City Council who didn't think there was an existing problem” with job discrimination, said the Rev. Dr. E. Scott Jones, who is gay and the senior minister of First Central Congregational United Church of Christ in Omaha.
“Now this report does show that there is employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual persons in our communities,” he said.
A total of 770 people responded to the questionnaire, including 412 from the Omaha area. All but roughly 10 percent of the participants said they lived in the Omaha or Lincoln metropolitan areas. The questionnaire was part of a larger report released last summer on the needs of area gay and transgender residents.
Of the Omaha-area respondents, nearly 33 percent reported they had been discriminated against in a job at least once because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Researchers took another look at the 2010 data in December because of Gray's plans to reintroduce the anti-discrimination proposal, partly because of a lack of local data on job discrimination against gay and transgender residents.
The City Council last took up the proposal in 2010, when it failed on a 3-3 vote.
Christopher Fisher, the assistant professor in UNMC's public health college who headed the survey, said respondents who experienced at least one instance of job-related discrimination were likely to have higher risks of depression than those who didn't.
But the local data could not prove job-related discrimination had led to symptoms of depression, UNMC researchers said. Fisher said, however, that other scientific research has established such links.
Researchers acknowledged having incomplete information about Nebraska's gay and transgender populations.
Researchers said they tried to obtain a “diverse sample” of gay and transgender residents through fliers, press releases and invitations to individuals to participate.
Despite the data's limitations, Fisher said, the conclusions provide “more than what we had.”
“It provides a legitimate set of data that doesn't exist anywhere else,” he said.
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