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Nebraska governor calls for popular vote on LGBT protections ordinances

Tuesday, May 22, 2012
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LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska’s Republican Governor Dave Heineman said Tuesday that voters should have a voice on the recently enacted city ordinances that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT people.

The Lincoln, Neb., City Council May 14 approved expanding the city’s civil rights protections to include its LGBT citizens. The Lincoln ordinance covers employment, housing and public accommodations.

Dave Heineman

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

“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.

In Lincoln, the measure is already being challenged.

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, reported the Lincoln Journal-Star.

Al Riskowski, executive director of Nebraska Family Council, told the Journal-Star that his group is hoping to collect the required 2,500 signatures from registered voters by the May 29 deadline.

Under a provision of the city’s charter, the coalition has just 15 days to collect the signatures.

“We know we have over 200 petitioners out there,” and most petitions coming back have about 20 signatures, Riskowski said. “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.

Supporters of the ordinances 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 opponents claim the ordinances will require them to abandon their faith.

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