On Tuesday, Nebraska Senator Dave Bloomfield (Hoskins) tabled a bill that would have extended conceal and carry privileges to military spouses, because the law could apply to same-sex couples. Bloomfield’s decision effectively kills the bill for this legislative session. Legislative Bill 190 would have granted non-resident military spouses the right to apply for conceal carry permits immediately, rather than requiring them to wait 180 days to establish residency. Current law permits non-resident military members to obtain a permit right away, but their spouses are not eligible for a conceal carry permit until they have acquired residency.
In gun-friendly Nebraska, the bill sailed through the unicameral legislature 34-7 on an initial vote, and 38-0 on a second round vote. However, because the bill would defer to the military’s definition of marriage, some lawmakers became concerned that the measure would extend gun rights to same-sex military couples. The ensuing controversy over whether the bill would acknowledge the Defense Department’s definition of marriage, lead to Bloomfield putting the bill on hold. The disappointed Senator, complained, “how we got the whole issue of gay marriage combined with concealed carry is beyond me”.
Although Nebraska’s Unicameral legislature is ostensibly non-partisan, Bloomfield was initially appointed to his seat by Republican Governor Dave Heineman. At the time he was chosen, Bloomfield was the acting chair of the Wayne County Republican Party. On most issues, Bloomfield is an outspoken proponent of expanding liberty for Nebraska residents. For example, he has been a strong advocate for repealing the state’s helmet laws, so that motorcycle riders don’t have to abide by those pesky rules that might protect them from serious head injuries.
However, like most Republicans who love liberty, Bloomfield draws the line at permitting same-sex couples to enjoy the freedoms other Nebraskans take for granted. As a conservative, Bloomfield no doubt thinks he loves individual rights, and by God, he probably believes he supports the troops as well. However, when push comes to shove, he places an even higher value on the freedom to discriminate against gays and lesbians than he does on the right to carry.
Conservative ideology often involves a struggle between the Republican Party’s professed commitment to personal liberty, and their desire to preserve existing hierarchies in class, gender, race, and sexual orientation. All too often, when these competing values are in conflict, conservative lawmakers reveal that support for continued oppression of disadvantaged groups trumps their commitment to individual liberty.
One can hardly imagine an issue that Republicans would stand up for more than allowing the spouses of our men and women in uniform to legally carry a concealed firearm. However, given the choice between standing up for gun rights and upholding discrimination against gays and lesbians, Nebraska has chosen to stand on the side of discrimination. Given an option between siding with military families or aligning with homophobic bigotry, the author of the bill has stalled his legislation, revealing that his allegiance leans towards discrimination.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.