Reader DL draws our attention to an ongoing conflict over LGBT rights in Lincoln, Nebraska (state capital, population 250 000+). It all started when the city council passed a “fairness ordinance” granting gay and transgender people anti-discrimination protection in employment, housing and public accommodation. 21 states and some 140 cities in the US already have legislation like this on the books, so you might think that that would be the end of the story.
However, local law allows for a vote on any new ordinance if sufficient petitioners demand it quickly enough, and an impressively well-organised reactionary campaign managed to garner the 10 000 signatures required within the 15 days allowed. Due to the complexities of the laws governing petitions and votes on them, the city mayor has responded by recommending that the legislation be repealed, and the protections instead be put to the vote as an amendment to the city charter (he remains himself very much committed to the idea of somehow ensuring anti-discrimination rights are guaranteed for his LGBT citizens). This vote is likely to be in November.
The issue has naturally occasioned much local debate, including some cheeringly moderate contributions and some, err, less well-reasoned and not so moderate arguments. But the vote is also likely to attract national attention.The petition drive was led by two organisations: the Nebraska Family Council and Family First. The latter is affiliated to Focus on the Family, a national evangelical campaigning group founded by the worryingly irrational James Dobson. No doubt FotF and other such organisations will be making their muscular financial presence felt in the run-up to the charter vote. The national press is also starting to pick up on the story, with the Huffington Post columnist Clay Farris claiming (perhaps a touch hyperbolically) that Lincoln can become the “Gettysburg of gay rights”. If he’s to be proved right, there may have to be some sort of counter-balance to the pressure that FotF can bring to bear on the voters of Lincoln; though, like their mayor, I’m hopeful that the vast majority of the city’s citizens are fair-minded enough to resist bigoted influences and vote the right way. One to keep an eye on.