By Chris Dyer | LINCOLN, NE -- Nebraska's Republican Governor Dave Heineman told reporters Tuesday that voters should have a voice on the recently enacted city ordinances in the state's two most populous cities of Lincoln and Omaha that would ban discrimination against LGBT people.
"I think in both cases ... they should put it to the vote of the people," Heineman said citing a recent attorney general's opinion that says the cities would have to amend their city charters to offer such protections to groups not covered by state law.
The Lincoln, Neb., City Council May 14 had approved expanding the city’s civil rights protections to include its LGBT citizens. The Omaha city council approved a similar non-discrimination ordinance that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity two months ago.
In the case of Lincoln, the measure is being challenged, however. Two conservative right wing christian advocacy groups said they will organize a petition drive to stop the proposal from going into effect until there is a city-wide vote on the issue. Under a provision of the city’s charter, the coalition has just 15 days to collect the signatures.
Al Riskowski, executive director of Nebraska Family Council, told the Lincoln Journal-Star that the group is hoping that they will get the necessary 2,500 signatures from registered voters by the May 29 deadline.
"We know we have over 200 petitioners out there," and most petitions coming back have about 20 signatures, Riskowski said Tuesday afternoon. "That makes us very hopeful we can get enough signatures."
Many churches had petitions available after services last week, including all of the local Catholic churches and some Lutheran ones, he said. ~The Journal Star
Supporters of the measures claim that such legal protections are necessary because there is real discrimination. Twenty-seven percent of 770 Nebraskans participating in a 2011 online survey said they had experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace in the past five years because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But, according to the Journal-Star, opponents of the fairness ordinance, who believe homosexual behavior is a sin, say the measure will require them to abandon their faith at the doorsteps of their churches.