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Anti-gay groups collect signatures to force vote on discrimination ordinance

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
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LINCOLN, Neb. — Opponents of a new city ordinance that would expand the civil rights protections to include its LGBT citizens, said Tuesday they had collected enough signatures of registered voters to force the city council to either repeal the measure or place it on the November ballot for a city-wide referendum.

On May 14, the city council approved the “fairness ordinance,” which would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

Lincoln, Neb.

But under the Lincoln city charter, citizens can seek a referendum on any newly passed ordinance by collecting enough signatures in a 15-day period.

Standing in front of a large “Let Us Vote” banner, Al Riskowski, executive director of the Nebraska Family Council, and Dave Bydalek, executive director of Family First, told reporters that 310 volunteers gathered petitions with 10,092 signatures by the 4:30 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

“The referendum is about the process. It calls for a vote of the people,” said Riskowski.

“It’s only fair that the City Council schedule a vote on the sexual orientation, gender identity ordinance,” he said. “We followed the legal process. Now we expect them to do the same.”

Lincoln city attorney Rod Confer had previously stated that he found the language of the repeal or referendum petition flawed, prompting Bydalek to say that he felt that the Nebraska Supreme Court would uphold the petition process even if the language is slightly flawed.

“We would be in a very good position if this went to court,” Bydalek said.

Riskowski emphasized that both organizations would be asking the city’s voters to overturn the ordinance, which they claim would have “wide-ranging ramifications” if passed.

The next step of the process is for the county election commissioner’s office to validate the petition the signatures. If at least 2,489 registered voters are verified, implementation of the ordinance is suspended and the issue goes to the City Council for a decision.

Lincoln City Election Commissioner Dave Shively said it would take his office a week or two to verify signatures.

In March, the Omaha city council approved a similar non-discrimination ordinance that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Earlier this month, Nebraska’s Republican Governor Dave Heineman said that voters should have a voice on both ordinances.

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