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Petition drive launched to strike down law protecting LGBT people in Omaha

Saturday, October 13, 2012
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OMAHA, Neb. — An outspoken opponent of LGBT rights in Omaha has launched a petition drive to overturn the city’s legal protections for LGBT residents.

Patrick Bonnett, CEO of Omaha based Encore Financial Services, Inc., and head of a Tea Party group calling itself the “Omaha Liberty Project,” said he is confident that he can quickly surpass the roughly 11,400 signatures required to put the measure before voters.

Patrick Bonnett (left) and Femi Awodele

“Omaha Liberty Project” is aided in the effort by the organization “Christian Couples Fellowship International,” and headed by executive director Femi Awodele.

Bonnett said that their goal is to attract far more than that number of signatures.

“We’re confident we’ll get the signatures fairly rapidly,” Bonnett told the Omaha World Herald. “After that, we’ll probably take our time to validate the signatures that we know we have and give the city and county governments time to get through the fall presidential election,” Bonnett said.

Bonnett also said that the coalition is sponsoring training sessions for petition volunteers, and signature gathering efforts have begun within some area congregations.

Several hundred petition volunteers are now working to gather the needed signatures.

The World Herald reported that organizers are also being aided by the Heritage Coalition — a group of local clergy, who issued a proclamation earlier this year opposing the expansion of the city’s anti-discrimination laws to include LGBT residents.

Omaha’s City Council narrowly approved the anti-discrimination measure in March in a 4-3 vote, giving the city’s LGBT citizens the ability to file complaints with the city’s Human Rights and Relations Department if they were fired from a job, suffered other workplace discrimination or were refused a public accommodations based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Religious organizations are exempt from the regulations.

Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray, who authored the anti-bias ordinance, reacted Wednesday, saying, “This group, whoever it is, must seem to think discrimination against some people is OK.”

The Omaha Liberty Project must have all the signatures collected 90 days before the next election to give the city council enough time to move forward before the vote.

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