Thank you Everyone!

Dear Forward Equality Supporters and Public,

On April 17, 2014, Forward Equality will conclude all operations in Nebraska and Iowa. The Board of Directors and I came to this decision after considering many variables. Some of those include the needs of those supporters that we represent, the attitudes we have had to face, and the lack of communication with us on the issues we have been working on for the past couple years.

This was a very difficult decision for the Board and I because of the level of commitment and passion we have for the issues and our supporters. It was hard for us because we have donated so much time and energy on these issues and do not want it to have been wasted.

We are thankful to all of our supporters and the public officials who have worked with us and listened to our supporters concerns about the issues that are important to them. We thank all of those who have donated their time and energy on these issues and who have stood up to fight for a more progressive and fair America. We are especially thankful to all of the couples who stood up with us to fight for second parent adoption in Nebraska and progressive issues. In addition, we would like to give a big thank you to the State Senators who have worked on these issues, State Senator Sara Howard, State Senator Brad Ashford, State Senator Ernie Chambers, and State Senator Danielle Conrad.

On this journey, the people who have volunteered with Forward Equality had a great opportunity to learn and grow skills for grassroots organizing. I know that I learned many new skills and will continue to use them to work for a more progressive and fair America.

The Board of Directors and I thank all of our supporters and promise that we will not give up the great fight forward.

Sincerely,
Mika Covington (State Field Director/Executive Director)
Diane Dean (Board Member)
Kate Garber (Board Member)
Brian Mills (Board Member)

Forward Equality Calls for Independent Oversight of the OPD

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Forward Equality Calls for Independent Oversight of the OPD

Omaha, NE – February 3, 2014 - Forward Equality stood with Willie Hamilton of Black Men United and other community leaders  at their Press Conference calling for real independent oversight of the Omaha Police Department. On a number of occasions, including in the cases of George Bibins, Robert Wagner, and the Johnson Family OPD officers have used excessive force and used behavior that is unbecoming of a police officer. There has even been some ACLU lawsuits brought against the OPD.

Forward Equality’s core ideal and mission is equality for all. With that, Forward Equality calls on Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and the Omaha City Council to act and establish independent oversight of the police with real investigative powers including but not limited to subpoena powers.  Forward Equality opposes the Mayor’s citizen review board that lacks funding and has no power to subpoena to hold a true investigation.

It is time for Omaha City Officials to act. It is especially important since Omaha has been nationally ranked as the most dangerous city for racial minorities. It is time for Mayor Stothert to show some leadership on this issue. It is past time that all Omahans must be treated equally and have a safe city to live in.

Forward Equality is a regional progressive organization devoted to creating a more progressive and fair America.

Contact:
Mika Covington
Forward Equality,
(712) 314-8258
 mika.covington@forwardequality.com
 

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Forward Equality: Take Action Now!

Image from MotherJones

Image from MotherJones

 

 

As the year progresses new legislation will be introduced in both the Iowa and Nebraska legislatures and the U.S. Congress, that Forward Equality will be interested in supporting and opposing. Forward Equality will aid other movement and organizations in addressing our nation’s problems. For instance, Forward Equality is committed to combating income inequality, health care coverage for the over 50,000 uninsured Nebraskans, and strengthening and protecting Nebraska families and children by the passage of LB380.

Some of the bills of interest include NE bills: LB380, LB887, LB943, LB402, LB662 Federal bills: H.R. 1010, H.R. 137, H.R. 766, H.R. 676, H.R. 1755.

NEunicameral

 

Nebraska Bills:

Forward Equality is opposed to LB662, the Voter ID (Suppression) Bill. This bill would negatively affect Nebraska’s elderly voters, low-income voters, and minority voters. Forward Equality strongly believes that this voter ID bill’s intent is to disenfranchise minority voters and women, which there was a high turnout of minority voters in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

  • According to the AARP as many as 1 in 5 seniors do not have current government-issued photo IDs.
  • In 2006 alone, about 8 million people over the age of 65 didn’t have an ID, and the older people became the less likely they are to have a valid driver’s license.
  • Voter ID laws can create problems for many women who change their names after a marriage or divorce.
  • Voter ID laws often are applied unevenly across racial groups and significantly discriminates against Black and Latino youth.
  • According to the Black Youth Project 17.3% of Black youth and 8.1% of Latino, youth report they lack required identification to vote under voter ID laws, while just 4.7% of white youth lack required identification to vote under voter ID laws.

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your State Senator tell them you oppose LB662 and ask them to oppose LB662.Contact your Senator: Here You can also contact the Government, Military And Veterans Affairs committee and tell them to vote NO on LB662.

Here is the contact information for the Gov., Military & Vet. Affairs committee:

  • Sen. Bill Avery (Chair) Phone: (402) 471-2633 Email: bavery@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. John Murante Phone: (402) 471-2725 Email: jmurante@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Garrett Phone: (402) 471-2627 Email: tgarrett@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Dave Bloomfield Phone: (402) 471-2716 Email: dbloomfield@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Russ Karpisek Phone: (402) 471-2711 Email: rkarpisek@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh Phone: (402) 471-2618 Email: slautenbaugh@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Jim Scheer Phone: (402) 471-2929 Email: jscheer@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Norm Wallman Phone: (402) 471-2620 Email: nwallman@leg.ne.gov

Forward Equality supports LB887, the Wellness in Nebraska Act or WIN Act. This bill would expand Medicaid with federal dollars in Nebraska to cover the over 50,000 uninsured Nebraskans.

  • Image from the Journalstar

    Image from the Journalstar

    Over 50,000 Nebraska could get covered

  • The Federal government would fund the expansion 100% through 2016, and then 90% from 2020 on.
  • LB887 would return $2.3 billion to Nebraska.
  • LB887 would generate nearly $700 million in economic activity each year.

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your State Senator to tell them that you support LB887 and ask them to support LB887. Contact your Senator: Here

Forward Equality continues to support LB380, the Second Parent Adoption Bill. This bill would make adoption available in Nebraska for qualified couples regardless of marital status.

  • LB380Petition1782The bill is important because the State of Nebraska currently prohibits all unmarried couples from adopting regardless of how qualified the couple is to raise a child and the State of Nebraska prohibits second parent adoption via Nebraska State Supreme Court ruling.
  • The bill would benefit children waiting for a loving stable home by allowing all qualified couples to jointly adopt regardless of marital status.
  • The bill would also benefit couples who are already raising a  child but only one parent has parental rights to use second parent adoption to secure the co-parent’s rights.
  • Over 1,700 citizens support LB380.

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your State Senator to tell them that you support LB380 and ask them to support LB380. You can also contact the Judiciary committee and ask them to vote YES on LB380.  Please add your name to our petition for LB380: Here Contact your Senator: Here

Here is the contact information for the Judiciary committee:

  • Sen. Ashford Committee Chair (co-sponsor) – Phone: (402) 471-2622 Email: bashford@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Chambers – Phone: (402) 471-2612 Email: N/A
  • Sen. Christensen – Phone: (402) 471-2805 Email: mchristensen@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Coash – Phone: (402) 471-2632 Email: ccoash@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Davis – Phone: (402) 471-2628 Email: adavis@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Lathrop – Phone: (402) 471-2623 Email: slathrop@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. McGill (co-sponsor) – Phone: (402) 471-2610 Email: amcgill@leg.ne.gov
  • Sen. Seiler – Phone: (402) 471-2712 Email: lseiler@leg.ne.gov

Forward Equality supports LB402, the Wind Energy Tax Credit. The bill would provide sales tax incentive for new renewable energy facilities organized as Community Based Energy Development projects. This bill was advanced out of committee last year.

  • Nebraska is fourth in wind energy resources in the nation according to the American Wind Energy Association this bill would encourage energy businesses to use Nebraska’s wind resources.
  • Wind is clean.
  • About two-thirds of Nebraska’s power comes from coal and most of the rest through nuclear, which are neither clean nor safe for Nebraska families and children.
  • Nebraska has installed the capacity of 294 megawatts, which is just enough to power about 80,000 homes LB402 could encourage more growth in this section cutting energy costs.
  • Nebraska is not even close to being ranked in the top 20 when it comes to wind energy production, LB402 could help change that.  (NRDC)

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your State Senator to tell them that you support LB402 and ask them to support LB402. Contact your Senator: Here

Forward Equality supports LB943, the Minimum Wage Increase bill. This bill would increase Nebraska’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00. This bill is important for Nebraska’s working class and families. It would help pull them out of poverty. While, Forward Equality supports this bill, the organization would rather see the federal minimum wage increased to $10.10.

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your State Senator to tell them that you support LB943 and ask them to support LB943. Contact your Senator: Here

congress

 

Federal Bills:

Image from ThinkProgress

Image from ThinkProgress

Forward Equality is committed to combating the nation’s income inequality crisis where the nation’s wealth is concentrated to the top 10% of the nation’s population. This is why Forward Equality is a strong proponent for H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act. This bill would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

  • The bill would help the working class by pulling them up out of poverty.
  • The bill would restore the minimum wage’s historic purchasing power, making up for decades of erosion.
  • 30 million workers would receive a raise.
  • 88% of those getting a raise would be adults over the age of twenty, 56% would be women, nearly half would be workers of color, and over 43% would have some college education.
  • 17 million children would have a parent who would get a raise.
  • 71% of tipped workers getting a raise would be women.

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your U.S. House Rep and U.S. Senator to tell them that you support H.R. 1010 and ask them to support H.R. 1010. Contact your Congressional Reps: Here

washingtonpost.com

washingtonpost.com

Forward Equality supports H.R. 137, the Universal Background checks Act. This bill would require background checks for every gun purchase. Forward Equality agrees with many other progressive organizations that the time to act on gun violence prevention is now. Forward Equality believes that this bill is a first step.

  • 6.6 million guns are sold without background checks annually.
  • This proposal is supported by 88% of gun owners, including 86% of NRA members (Douglas Schoen 2012 survey).

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your U.S. House Rep and U.S. Senator to tell them that you support H.R. 137 and ask them to support H.R. 137. Contact your Congressional Reps: Here

Forward Equality supports H.R. 766, the Paying a Fair Share Act. This bill would require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share of income taxes. Currently, many high-income taxpayers are taxed at much lower rates then middle-income workers.

  • H.R. 766 would close the preferential rates on capital gains and dividends by requiring taxpayers with incomes over $1 million to pay at least 30% of their adjusted gross income in federal taxes.
  • One millionaire paying their fair share could mean up to $32 million for over 600 veterans in jobs that leverage skills developed in the military or over 3,300 returning veterans receiving medical care.  (Forward Equality)

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Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your U.S. House Rep and U.S. Senator to tell them that you support H.R. 766 and ask them to support H.R. 766. Contact your Congressional Reps: Here

Forward Equality supports H.R. 676, the Healthcare for All Act. This bill would improve and expand Medicare for All.

“Our elected officials in Washington, D.C., have the privilege of health coverage that is paid for by the tax payers. I am glad they have coverage. However, our elected officials may have become so insular, that they cannot relate to the paralyzing fear their constituents feel, who don’t have health coverage, when their loved ones need it. Secondly, an alarming number of families have no medical insurance and medical bankruptcies have climbed at an alarming rate. Medical bankruptcies now make up about 61% of all bankruptcies. Meanwhile insurance executives have become among the wealthiest persons in the US. This is why I believe we must pass H.R. 676,” Mrs. Dean Forward Equality Board Member stated in support of H.R. 676.

hcvan

This bill would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, etc.

  • This bill has the support of 598 union organizations including 144 Central Labor Councils/Area Labor Federations and 41 states AFL-CIO’s.
  • This bill has the support of 17 medical organizations and associations.
  • This bill has the support of 6 faith organizations.
  • This bill has the support of 21 civic/community organizations.
  • It would end deductibles and co-payments.
  • It would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and the profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your U.S. House Rep and U.S. Senator to tell them that you support H.R. 676 and ask them to support H.R. 676. Contact your Congressional Reps: Here

ENDA-front-200x258Forward Equality strongly supports H.R. 1755, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This bill would ban discrimination in the workplace based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The U.S. Senate already passed this bill by a vote of 64-32. The U.S. House version has 169 co-sponsors with two from Iowa and zero from Nebraska. The bill does not cover religious organizations and does not require construction of additional restroom facilities.

Take Action: Forward Equality asks you to contact your U.S. House Rep and U.S. Senator to tell them that you support H.R. 1755 and ask them to support H.R. 1755. Contact your Congressional Reps: Here

Forward Equality: Tell Congress to Pass a Fair Minimum Wage!

In America, income inequality has become a national crisis, with unprecedented concentrations of wealth to the top 10% of the nation’s population. Over the years the minimum wage has lost it’s purchasing power and many Americans are working in low-wage jobs with little to no benefits. Income inequality has steadily increased in 49 of 50 states since 1989 and poverty rates has increased in 43 states. Even income for the median household fell in about 28 states. All while, in all 50 states the top 20% of the richest households continue to see income gains. Currently, the average income per family is $1,019,089 for the top 1% and $29,840 for the bottom 90%. Yes, this is a national crisis. (Reuters)

Image from MotherJones

Image from MotherJones

Image from ThinkProgress

Image from ThinkProgress

Regressives try to tell us that this is the price we pay for our American exceptionalism. Forward Equality disagrees, we know that the United States of America can be an exceptional nation without income inequality or inequality of any kind. This is why Forward Equality supports H.R. 1010, the fair minimum wage act.

H.R. 1010 would restore the nation’s federal minimum wage to it’s historic level, making up for decades of erosion, and increase the minimum wage to $10.10. This would mean about 30 million workers would get a raise.

Image from MotherJones

Image from MotherJones

75 of the nation’s leading economists agree that raising the minimum wage would help, which is why they endorsed the fair minimum wage act in their letter to Congress and President Obama.

“At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum-wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers,” the economists stated in their letter.

How a Fair Minimum Wage would Affect us:

  • About 30 million workers would receive a raise.
  • 88% of those who receive a raise are adults over the age of twenty, 56% are women, nearly half are workers of color, and over 43% have at least some college education.
  • 17 million children have a parent who would get a raise.
  • 71% of tipped workers getting a raise would be women. (Forward Equality)

Tell Congress to, “Pass a fair minimum wage and help working families stay afloat! Pass HR 1010!Go here to get contact information for you Rep or Senator (NE/IA): Contact Information for Congress

Moving Forward in 2014 & How You can Help!

As the new year begins there is plenty of work to be done in Nebraska and Iowa. Legislatures in both states are back in session and with that means progress needs to be made! This year Forward Equality will be working on issues from expanding medicaid in Nebraska and passage of second parent adoption to opposing Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz who is running for Congress on a regressive anti-women, anti-LGBTQIA, anti-voter platform.  We will also work on several other issues including opposing voter ID to supporting a fair minimum wage.

Image from Nebraska Appleseed

Image from Nebraska Appleseed

Forward Equality stands with Nebraskans who are uninsured and who are being denied health care by Governor Heineman because he refuses to accept federal funds to expand medicaid. Forward Equality calls on the Nebraska Legislature to pass the medicaid expansion bill, LB887.  Passage of LB887 would mean that more than 50,000 Nebraskans would be able to get healthcare coverage and it would be funded 100% by the Federal government through 2016, and then 90% from 2020 on. Medicaid expansion would also return over $2 billion to Nebraska’s economy and generate nearly $700 million in economic activity each year.

Forward Equality stands with Nebraska families and over 1,700 petition signers in calling on the Nebraska Legislature to pass the second parent adoption bill, LB380. Passage of LB380 would strengthen and protect families and children. LB380 will allow qualified couples to jointly adopt regardless of their marital status and will allow couples to protect their family by using second parent adoption to secure their parental rights.

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Forward Equality stands with the working class in calling on Congress to pass a fair minimum wage. Right now, in America income inequality has become a crisis with unprecedented concentrations of wealth to the top 10% of the nation’s population. This we can change even though regressives tell us that this inequality is the price we pay for our American exceptionalism. Forward Equality disagrees, the United States can be an exceptional nation without income inequality which is why we support a fair minimum wage to help pull up the working class out of poverty. We support H.R. 1010 the fair minimum wage act. H.R. 1010 would restore the minimum wage to it’s historic, level making up for decades of erosion, and increase the minimum wage to $10.10. Increasing the minimum wage would give 30 million workers a raise.

Forward Equality stands strong for progressive values and issues and in doing that we oppose regressives such as Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz who has decided to run for Congress in Iowa’s Congressional District 3. Matt Schultz who is campaigning on repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) so that we can go back to the dark ages where insurance companies can do whatever they want. Repeal of the ACA would mean that 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could lose their health insurance coverage. Repeal would also mean 17 million kids with pre-existing conditions could lose  health insurance coverage, and more than 7 million seniors would pay an average of $1,200 more for their prescription drugs. Mr. Schultz while Secretary of State spent tens of thousands of Iowa’s taxpayers’ dollars to disenfranchise and intimidate Iowans, and found only 5 cases of voter fraud (ThinkProgress).  In addition, he believes that politicians should take the place of women’s doctors to decided whether or not they need an abortion, and he wants to ban women’s reproductive rights.

Right now, you can help by contacting the Nebraska Legislature’s Judiciary and urge them to move forward on second parent adoption (LB380) to strengthen Nebraska families and protect children. You can also help by signing our petition for LB380.  Tell the Judiciary Committee, “Please bring LB380 up for a vote. The families and children that this bill would help deserve a vote. This bill would provide legal stability to strengthen families. Please move LB380 forward. Thank you, [your name].”

Here is the contact information for the Judiciary Committee:

You can Go Here to contact the full Nebraska Legislature to urge them to support medicaid expansion and pass LB887. You can also go to the Wellness in Nebraska website for more information.

To stand up for the working class you can contact your Rep. or Senator here and tell them to support a fair minimum wage and pass H.R. 1010. 

Nebraska Hospitals and Blue Cross Blue Shield Recognize Same-Sex Spouses

maxresdefaultIn Nebraska, hospitals are beginning to offer health insurance benefits to all couples equally regardless of their gender. These hospitals include Alegent Creighton Health/Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) of Nebraska, the Methodist Health system and the Omaha VA Medical Center starting in January of 2014. The Alegent Creighton Health CHI network has 16 hospitals and two inpatient behavioral health centers in Nebraska and Iowa, and they have over 15,000 employees.  The Methodist system has two hospitals in Nebraska and one in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and has over 3,000 employees. The VA Medical Center has over 1,000 employees.

Alegent Creighton/CHI said,

“Because access to decent and affordable health care is a basic human right.” “CHI reviewed the IRS definition of individuals eligible to be claimed as a dependent on a federal tax return and used that definition as the basis for a new dependent classification, an adult dependent, to be eligible for CHI medical, dental and vision plans.”

Under this new definition, CHI will cover same-sex spouses.  CHI said that the coverage is, “consistent with our mission and core values – it increases access to affordable health care for our employees’ families.”

images (2)Methodist Health System’s vice president of human resources said,

“Our benefit plans look to a number of federal statutes for plan administration and definitions.” In addition, said, “We decided to continue to follow the federal law, and that allowed for same-sex benefits.”

 

imageThe VA Medical Center must follow the rules put forth by the federal Office of Personnel Management. Cheri DeWispelare, chief of human resources for the VA Nebraska Western Iowa Health Care System said,

“Whether they’re same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples, the rules are the same for them.”

Unfortunately, some hospitals in Nebraska will not be treating all couples equally. The Nebraska Medical Center and Bryan Health both said they don’t offer health coverage benefits for same-sex couples. (Omaha.com)

In addition, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska will begin offering health coverage for same-sex couples in 2014. A representative for the insurance company said that,

“It’s a Department of Labor policy we’re following.”

photo-5Blue Cross is the insurance carrier for 246 Nebraska school districts and their plan includes more than 70,000 education employees, early retirees and dependents.  Most districts in Nebraska are covered through Blue Cross except Millard, Wayne and York. Millard’s director of administrative affairs claims that he wasn’t aware of officials in his district considering coverage for same-sex spouses. This would fall in line with Millard’s history of being anti-LGBTQIA. (Omaha.com)

Even more regretful, the City of Papillion won’t follow Blue Cross Blue Shield’s policy that grants benefits to same-sex couples claiming that the Nebraska Constitution prevents them. However, other cities in Sarpy County, Bellevue and La Vista will accept Blue Cross Blue Shield’s policy. (Omaha.com)

Stothert-at-desk1Then of course, Nebraska still has Mayor Jean Stothert (Republican) of Omaha who refuses to provide health care benefits to the city’s employees’ same-sex spouses. Mayor Stothert claims that the city’s law department determined that she must discriminate against certain couples, while Douglas County will offer those benefits. (Forward Equality)

*Reminder Mayor Stothert campaigned on repealing Omaha’s nondiscrimination ordinance that bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. She opposes equal rights for LGBTQIA people and their families. She has constantly voted against equality for LGBTQIA students and adults while on the Millard Public Schools Board and as a Omaha City Council person.

Currently, there are 18 states and the District of Columbia that provides equal marriage rights. Those states include Massachusetts (2004), California (2008 [repealed by prop-8][prop-8 struck down] 2013), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), Vermont (2009), New Hampshire (2009), New York (2011), Washington (2012), Maryland (2012), Maine (2012), Rhode Island (2013), Delaware (2013), Minnesota (2013), New Jersey (2013), Illinois (2013), Hawaii (2013), New Mexico (2013), and Utah (2013).

doma-justicesIn addition, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) granting same-sex marriages federal recognition.  However, Nebraska is one of those states that refuse to treat all couples equal, but two State Senators, Sen. Chambers and Sen. Ashford are attempting to fix that.

Last month, Judiciary Chairperson Sen. Brad Ashford held a hearing at the Nebraska State Legislature to discuss the effects of the SCOTUS ruling on Sec. 3 of DOMA as unconstitutional on Nebraska law. Sen. Ashford wishes to put the issue of same-sex union recognition to a vote of the people to remove the harmful amendment to the Nebraska constitution that outlaws equal marriage, civil union, and domestic partnerships. He feels that the state should give some sort of recognition to same-sex unions like civil unions. He believes that the Nebraska voters should decide this issue for themselves before the courts forces a decision on them. (nebraskaraidonetwork)

On the other hand, Sen. Ernie Chambers at the hearing, called the federal DOMA the

“worst, nuttiest, lame-brainest, discriminatory act ever enacted by a nutty, lame-brained collection of people known as the Congress.”

He also indicated that he plans to introduce legislation in the next session to bring equal marriage to Nebraska and repeal Nebraska’s harmful amendment known as the Super DOMA.

Forward Equality agrees with Sen. Chambers and Sen. Ashford that the Nebraska amendment banning equal marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships is harmful and must be repealed. Nonetheless, Forward Equality does not support Sen. Ashford in wanting civil unions. Forward Equality stands with Sen. Chambers in calling for equal marriage for all Nebraskans and call on Nebraska supporters to work with both of the Senators to repeal the amendment.  (Sen. Chambers & Sen. Ashford: Repeal Nebraska’s SuperDOMA)