Voters Could Now Decide Lincoln's New Fairness Ordinance
By Melissa Rosales, Reporter/Producer and Will Bauer , Reporter/Producer Nebraska Public Media
March 1, 2022, 2 p.m. ·
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A new fairness ordinance in Lincoln could be decided by the city’s voters and not the city council.
The conservative lobbying group, Nebraska Family Alliance, announced Tuesday it had gathered 18,501 petition signatures, enough to force the council to rescind the ordinance or put it before voters.
The order in question adds protections for gender identity and sexual orientation in addition to adding active military and veterans to the list of the city’s protected classes.
"Disagreement is not discrimination," Nate Grasz, the policy director at NFA, said at a Tuesday press conference. "We are a nation where you should be allowed to disagree without the threat of having your own government shut down your business, your nonprofit or your church for the crime of disagreeing with the ideology of those who are in political power."
Sara Rips, a legal counsel with the ACLU of Nebraska, disagrees. She said the ordinance ensures Lincoln will be a hospitable and welcoming city.
"You are allowed to think what you want. You are allowed to say what you want," Rips said. "What you are not allowed to do is discriminate. It is not your right to deny someone, the ability to rent a house or access a business because you do not like their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their skin color, their status as a veteran or their status as a person with disabilities."
Because of a 2020 Supreme Court decision, federal law protects gender identity and sexual orientation against workplace discrimination. Rips said Lincoln's fairness ordinance would better align the city's code with federal law.
Just 4,137 signatures were required to override the council’s decision. The council could now rescind the fairness ordinance or choose to put it on an upcoming ballot.