A Lincoln minister and several local business owners offered their support for what is being called the fairness ordinance during a news conference Thursday.

The proposal would extend legal anti-discrimination protection in Lincoln to gays and transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations.

"As a person of faith who practices the peaceable, inclusive religious principles of the Jesus movement, discrimination has no basis because God shows no partiality," said the Rev. Karla J. Cooper, pastor of Quinn Chapel and chaplain at Doane College.

"It is a divine mandate and imperative to pass the fairness ordinance in the city of Lincoln," Cooper said to the more than 40 people gathered in support.

Supporters have developed a website (www.makelincolnfair.org) and have planned additional events over the next few weeks, including a news conference with clergy members  Saturday.

Councilman Carl Eskridge said he didn't expect to see the kind of controversy that occurred in Omaha, where a similar proposal was passed recently, but he acknowledged there will be differing opinions among Lincoln business owners and churches.

"There won't be unanimity," he said.

But he believes there will be a civil and thoughtful discussion.

"This issue may be challenging, but we can talk about it; we can work together to find a solution."

The Rev. Al Riskowski, executive director for Nebraska Family Council, said his group would be part of the opposition.

The amendment raises freedom of speech, freedom of religion and morality issues, he said.

"This is truly more of a morality issue than a minority issue," he said, adding the protection was  not necessary.

There should be a large groundswell of problems in order to create a new protected class, he said.

Eskridge plans to have the amendment introduced April 30, with a public hearing May 7 and council vote May 14.

The amendment will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes and will provide definitions for the two terms.

People should be judged at work by their performance, not their sexual orientation, said Tyler Richard, president of OutLinc, a local social, education and advocacy organization.

The proposed amendment is not a declaration of huge proportions, said Wayne Boles of Telesis Inc. It is merely an acknowledgment that Lincoln is an inclusive city, he said.

"There are different segments in the employment pool. Those same segments are also in the target market pool."

"And karma is a powerful force," he said.

Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.