OMAHA, Neb. — A petition effort led by local churches and family values organizations has failed to gather enough signatures to launch a referendum to repeal an Omaha city ordinance that protects its LGBT citizens.
The Omaha Liberty Project, sponsor of the petition effort, needed to submit about 11,400 valid signatures to city officials on Friday to potentially force a vote in May’s general election, but the group fell short in meeting the requirement.
The group has already missed a deadline to place the issue on the primary ballot.
“We’ve got to be pretty darn close to the number we need,” Patrick Bonnett, the group’s executive director. “Darn close, but we just didn’t get it.”
Bonnett said the Liberty Project’s campaign got a late start and had to spend much of the holidays bringing voters up to speed on the ordinance.
“We were very, very shocked at how few people were in tune with the issue,” he said.
The law, approved by the city council last spring, gives gay and transgender residents the ability to file complaints with the city’s Human Rights and Relations Department if they believe they were fired from a job because of their sexual orientation, suffered other workplace discrimination or were refused a public accommodation.
Article continues belowEmployers could be subject to civil penalties if found culpable. Religious organizations are exempt from the regulations.
Bonnett insisted that his group will continue the efforts to repeal the LGBT ordinance.
The petition drive sought adoption of an ordinance to remove sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes within the City of Omaha and for City of Omaha contracts.
With enough signatures, the proposal would have been forwarded to the City Council, which has the authority to enact or reject the proposal within 30 days of receiving it. It would go to a public vote if the council didn’t act.