Friday, February 1, 2013

Effort to block Omaha's LGBT antibias law by Omaha Liberty Project, Heritage Coalition and Catholic Church fails to gather enough signatures

The Omaha World-Herald reports that The Omaha Liberty Project, sponsor of the petition effort which needed to submit roughly 11,400 valid resident signatures to the city today to potentially force a vote in May's general election, wasn't able to do so, despite considerable support by conservative North Omaha black churches, evangelical West Omaha megachurches and the Omaha Catholic Archdiocese, which allowed petition solicitations in its churches and violated Nebraska's electioneering law at polls in its buildings in last fall's general election. (See example below filmed at St. Francis of Assisi.)
     A similar petition effort to reverse Lincoln's short-lived LGBT protections was successful. Although the state's statutory window for compulsory retention by the Lancaster County Election Commission of voters who signed the petition to kill Lincoln's law has passed, AKSARBENT has confirmed that at least one copy of the list of 10,000+ was purchased and may yet be published online in order that Lincolnites will be able to find out which of their acquaintances and neighbors took action to make sure antigay discrimination would remain legal in Nebraska's capitol.

     “We've got to be pretty darn close to the number we need,” said Patrick Bonnett, the group's executive director and a member of the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District board.
“Darn close, but we just didn't get it.”
     UNO political science professor, Gregory Petrow, said petition drives like this don't often fall short because of a lack of people willing to sign, but because of less-organized grassroots campaigns. He told the Herald: “You wouldn't want to conclude anything about what this says on the state of public opinion on the issue,”
     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.
     That's nonsense, unless by "in tune" Bonnett means "as homophobic as we are." Hearings on the issue were standing room only and received wide local coverage.
     The World-Herald quotes organizers as saying they will keep trying to ensure that gay Omahans arbitrarily jerked around by homophobes never have legal recourse look forward to "continuing the whole conversation."
If organizers gather enough names, they could turn in ballots at a later date. But they'd likely have to wait until the next election: the 2014 primary.
The number of signatures required to get the issue on the ballot then would depend on voter turnout for this year's general city election — the requirement is 15 percent of the turnout in the most recent election.
“We're proud of our petition drive,” Bonnett said.
     Bonnett's allies include William Femi Awodelea 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 not a single page has functioned properly for months, except the one in which marriage-improvement DVDs for troubled heterosexuals (which cost up to $70) may be ordered.
     The Nebraska Heritage Coalition was also behind the effort. That organization of dozens of reactionary churches falsely claimed that its members condemn violence but its list of online signatories included Omaha's notorious death-to-gays preacher, Phillip Kayser, of MSNBC fame, whose venue at the University of Nebraska at Omaha Alumni Center was the subject of repeated protests.
TalkingPointsMemo graphic of quote from
page 24 of Kayser's paper Is the death penalty just?
Screen capture of Heritage Coalition's online list of signatories
to its Proclamation on Sexual Preference, made 3/3/12
     Omaha's municipal code, revised last March, gives gay and transgender residents the right to file complaints with the city's Human Rights and Relations Department if they believe they were fired due to their sexual orientation, suffered other workplace discrimination or were refused a public accommodation, but it doesn't cover housing!  Employers found guilty are subject to civil penalties. Religious organizations are exempted.
     Six complaints have been submitted to date, said City Human Resources Director Richard O'Gara. One complaint has been investigated and dismissed, O'Gara said, while the rest are being scrutinized under a lengthy investigative process.
     “It just takes time,” O'Gara said.

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