LINCOLN, Neb. ( Associated Press) — The city council in Nebraska’s capital city has repealed an anti-discrimination measure that increases protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, just four months after unanimously approving it.
The Lincoln City Council voted 4-3 Monday to repeal February’s amendment to the city’s fairness ordinance in the face of a successful petition effort by a conservative group, the Lincoln Journal Star reported, which would have taken the measure on the November ballot. The Fairness Ordinance provides for equal opportunities in housing, employment and public accommodation.
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Then the Nebraska Family Alliance launched a petition effort in February, a day after City County adopted the measure, with the conservative group portraying the effort as a “transgender bathroom ordinance.” The group’s petition effort collected 18,502 signatures – more than four times the number needed – in just two weeks, forcing the city council to either repeal it or put it to the people’s vote.
Two members of the council who voted to repeal the measure – Tom Bacius and James Michael Bowers – are openly gay. He said he voted to cancel the security for fear that the measure would not stick to the ballot box. Beckius also noted that LGBTQ members of the community are already protected under a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that said sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under the Civil Rights Act.
Councilman Benny Shobe, who declined to say how he would vote before Monday, joined Bacius, Bowers and Richard Maginis to call off the vote. Shobe, who is black, said he did so because civil rights should not be decided by the vote of the people. He said his parents went to different schools and lived in Kentucky as second-class citizens until the US Supreme Court and the Civil Rights Act guaranteed their rights under the law.
“However, if my parents’ civil rights had been put to the vote of the people, I believe they would have been denied,” Shobe said.
Sandra Washington, the third openly gay member of the council who introduced the measure, and two other women on the council – Jane Raybould and Tammy Ward – voted against repealing the measure. Washington denied fears it would fail the ballot, saying it was more likely that voters elected a Democratic mayor and three openly gay council members would uphold the ordinance.
She and others vowed to keep working to codify LGBTQ rights.
“For generations to come – the youth of our city – I want you to know that I see you,” Washington said. “I’ve been where you stand now, and I promise you it will get better.”