Sunday, September 16, 2012

Omaha Liberty Project will petition to kill city's new LGBT anti-bias law; Effort to be led by Nebraska Family Council's Femi Awodele and Encore Financial Services CEO Patrick Bonnett

Nebraska Family Council claim (click picture to enlarge): Omaha's LGBT fair employment ordinance
confers "special privileges"  for gay Omahans and infringes on "religious freedoms" (apparently
loopholes in the law allowing religious organizations to discriminate against gay people aren't
generous enough to satiate the Nebraska Family Council.)
Update: a rumor is circulating that activists may purchase a copy of the Lincoln petition and post a list of signatories online, as has been done elsewhere in instances of antigay initiatives.
     Background: In May, after Omaha adopted an LGBT anti-bias ordinance, the Lincoln City Council did the same, on a 5-0 vote with the two Republican councilmen abstaining. The Nebraska Family Council and Family First of Nebraska immediately gathered over 10,000 signatures on a petition to halt implementation of the law, requiring the city council to either let the ordinance die or put it on the ballot. Petition signatures were solicited at every Catholic church in Lincoln; four times the required number of signatures were collected.
     Last week, a petition request with the City of Omaha to put the city's anti-bias law to a popular vote was filed by a group calling itself the Omaha Liberty Project. The organization includes a board member of the Nebraska Family Council, William Femi Awodele; its leader is a local Tea Party activist, Patrick Bonnett, owner of Encore Financial Services, Inc. of Omaha.
     Omaha legal officials are reviewing the proposed petition. If it is approved and attracts enough signatures, the council will have the option to enact or reject a petition-led proposal within 30 days of receiving it. Should the council not enact the proposal, it would go to a public vote during the next scheduled city election.
     Nancy Hicks of the Lincoln Journal-Star notes that the group must collect signatures representing at least 15% of the number of people who voted in the last mayoral election, or about 11,500 signatures of Omaha registered voters, according to the city charter.
     Patrick Bonnett, the director of the new organization seeking to kill Omaha's LGBT anti-bias law is pictured at left in a 2011 rally in Papillion, an Omaha suburb, during which Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, also a speaker, compared welfare recipients to racoons.
     Among the many reactionary groups Bonnett likes on Facebook as of this writing is one called I hate it when I wake up in the morning and Barack Obama is President.
     Update: Bonnett has now locked down his Facebook page.
     William Femi Awodele is a North Omaha "community leader," from Nigeria, a board member of the Nebraska Family Council and an executive director of his apparent business, Christian Couples Fellowship International, which has a website on which marriage-improvement DVDs for troubled heterosexuals (which cost up to $70) may be ordered.

Below: Awodele, who isn't a lawyer, failed last Spring to persuade the City Council not to adopt Omaha's LGBT anti-bias ordinance after arguing that gay people don't fit the legal definition of a minority — despite the fact that they have employment protection in about 170 US cities — and that a study by the University of Nebraska Medical Center indicates they have too much money to be considered a legitimate minority, anyway. He had more to say but was cut off because his time management skills were insufficient to comply with the council's five-minute rule.

Johnny Perez noted in the above-linked Omaha World-Herald article that a poll in March indicated 60% of voters citywide favored ordinances to prohibit discrimination against gay and transgender residents, while approximately 25 percent opposed them. City Councilman Ben Gray, who proposed the change to city ordinances, said: “This group, whoever it is, must seem to think discrimination against some people is OK,” said


  1. Dont worry Nebraska..this Tax paying Gay American has NO intention of ever going to your Bigoted,Hate state, as far as Im concerned...your a place on a map...that is all.....

  2. When I spoke to the Omaha city council, I told them about doing research on the Omaha ordinance, reading perspectives in the Omaha World Herald and KETV. And over and over and over again, I witnessed opponents referring to me and my family as as freaks, perverts, a danger to children, telling me I need to be "fixed", that being gay is "morally deviant".

    These themes recur over and over again among all opponents, and were reiterated verbally by opponents speaking before the city council. Opponents comments were captured in the live transcript (archived here: ), I've excerpted some selected statments from opponents (here: ).

    Remember, the people who believe that are potential employers, business people, coworkers. Its absolutely clear that these people oppose the ordinance because they believe LGBT people *should* be discriminated against, they oppose the ordinance to allow them to purposefully harm and disenfranchise LGBT people. And that's EXACTLY why we need these anti-discrimination ordinances.

    This is not an issue of "religious freedom". When I spoke to the Omaha city council to pass the ordinance, here's what I saw:
    1) supporters outnumbered the opposition 2:1
    2) supporters spoke for about 2 hours, and about 95% of people speaking in favor were members of numerous churches in town.
    3) numerous clergymen representing the Heartland Proclamation, an organization representing 250+ clergymen in the midwest who support LGBT protections and inclusion as equals to their heterosexual counterparts, spoke in favor of the ordinance.
    4) we had speakers representing PFLAG (Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and several other LGBT groups her in Omaha, these groups hold meetings in churches, and most or all of the board members are Christian.
    5) that's not even getting into the Nebraska Medical Center researchers, Omaha attorneys, and representatives from the Human Rights Council representing the secular support for the ordinance.

    The case supporting the anti-discrimination ordinance was flawless. It should have passed in Omaha 7-0, but instead squeaked by 4-3 instead. I'm thankful the Lincoln ordinance passed unaminously. I'm thinking the Lincoln councilmen couldn't stop laughing after this testimony: