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Family groups consider legal action to force Lincoln vote on gay rights ordinance

By   /   February 27, 2013  /   59 Comments

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN – The organizers of a referendum for a Lincoln gay rights ordinance are considering suing the city to force its leaders to schedule an election, as was sought by 10,000 people who signed the petition last year.

Hundreds of Nebraskans turned out for a vigil in the wake of a reported brutal gay hate crime in Lincoln in July. The victim recently pleaded no contest to staging the crime.

VIGIL: Hundreds of Nebraskans turned out for a vigil in the wake of a reported brutal gay hate crime in Lincoln in July. The victim recently pleaded no contest to staging the crime.

The Lincoln City Council voted Monday to put two issues on the ballot in May for Lincoln voters to decide, but not the gay rights ordinance, leaving those who circulated petitions wondering why Lincoln city officials won’t schedule the election they requested through a petition drive.

David Bydalek, a former assistant attorney general who is now executive director of Family First Nebraska, said the fact city leaders have now scheduled a vote on two issues while snubbing their noses at those who signed the referendum petition “irked a lot of people.” About 10,000 people – four times the necessary number — signed a petition referring the ordinance to a vote after the City Council approved the ordinance in May 2012. That gave the council two options — rescind the ordinance or put the issue to a vote. Nine months ago, Mayor Chris Beutler said he would urge the council to put it to a vote, but little has happened since.

Bydalek said the election should have been scheduled within a reasonable time after the petitions were turned in.

“It’s clear that they believe they have as much time as they want to do what the charter clearly says they have to do,” Bydalek said. “They really have no legal basis or no real reason for putting it off. They clearly don’t plan on doing what the charter compels them to do.”

Some suspect city officials didn’t want to schedule the gay rights vote during the spring city election because it would become a campaign issue, but Bydalek said that’s not a legitimate reason to delay the vote.

“They don’t know how to deal with it, and they don’t want to deal with it,” he said.

Councilman Carl Eskridge introduced the original ordinance extending civil rights protection on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. He said the issue will be put to a vote likely some time next year.

“Given the division in the community when we had the hearing last summer, we felt that it was best to let it lie for a little while,” Eskridge said, referring to the contentious public hearing on the ordinance and subsequent gay hate crime hoax from a Lincoln woman, Charlie Rogers, who recently entered a plea of no contest.

“It’s just too politicized,” he said. “We just need to have a more local discussion about how it affects our community.”

He said there’s “interest in the religious community” to talk about the issue, with classes and meetings and discussions over the next year.

He said the referendum essentially nullified the ordinance, so it’s not in effect. But the City Council did not want to revoke it by a vote, he said.

“It’s not a question of support to put it on the ballot,” Eskridge said. “They fully intend to put it on the ballot. It’s just a matter of figuring out when the community is ready to do it in a reasonable, rational way.”

Al Riskowski, head of the Nebraska Family Council, which helped gather petition signatures, said when he first heard news about a charter amendment he thought it was for the gay rights issue. He was wrong.

He said city statutes don’t say how soon a referendum election must be held after signatures are verified. Supporters of the referendum will soon decide whether to take legal action seeking a writ of mandamus that would force city officials to perform their statutory duty.

“The referendum was not about the ordinance itself, it was about putting it to a vote of the people,” Riskowski said.

He said the mayor’s office has not communicated with his group. Beutler’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact Deena Winter at [email protected].

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.


Deena formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • So SO Sad for Lincoln I really believe Lincoln is a great and well diverse city, im starting to wonder if that is true anymore, Being married for 17 plus years and being strait man, i feel that the rights of the people NO MATTER there race, sex, age, and sexuality should be taken seriously.just like the civil rights in the 50’s and the 60’s most look back and say that was so wrong and a sad issue of the times, we also look back at women;s suffrage the same way, why arent we looking at the same sex marriage in any different way, but discriminating we arent doing our country any justice. My question is for all of you by Giving the equal rights to gay couples does this make Lincoln a better or worse town? I m not sure if i like how we as a pillar or the world how we are so closed minded to people who have a different way of life.

  • Pat Boyle

    Who does the Nebraska Family Council & Family First Nebraska represent? I’m for gays being allowed to marry. It doesn’t affect my family at all. It’s a simple argument over the marriage principle that doesn’t hold water.
    If the argument is for DOMA legislation, then just ban divorce.
    Then again, DOMA is legislation that takes rights away from people.

  • The Lincoln city council passed an ordinance that extended civil rights protections such as protection from employment discrimination (being fired for race, sex, religion, etc.) and housing discrimination (being denied an apartment for race, sex, religion, etc) to LGBT people.

    The NE Family Council and Family First Nebraska are both Christian advocacy groups who believe that their religious freedoms allows them to fire people for being gay, refuse to let gay people rent apartments and refuse service to people who are gay.

    They are upset because the ordinance prevents them from singling out and attacking gay people, and are now wanting to sue the City Council for not putting up the ordinance for a vote.

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    So sad that 10,000 people in Lincoln willingly signed a paper declaring themselves to be homophobic bigots who are unwilling to extend equal rights and protections to fellow Human Beings. Sadder still that some of those pictured on the City Council steps as supporters of this referendum are people of color, whose parents were themselves discriminated against in housing, jobs, education and voting merely for the amount of melanin pigmentation in their skin.

    This “issue” should be a non-issue, except for it being just another example of why religion should stay out of politics.

  • cliveklg

    This group is a hate group masquerading as a family values group. Their sole position here is they want to allow a group to be discriminated against based on their bigotry and hate.

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    NFC and FFN are merely astroturf groups funded by big money that is intent on keeping people quibbling with each other on what should be non-issues, so that those same people who belong to those astroturf group’s don’t notice or recognize the real agenda of those funding them – namely screwing them by enacting the REAL social inequity between the have’s and have not’s.

    Remember: When Fascism rears its ugly head in America it will be clothed in the Flag and carrying a Bible.

  • Danny Ladely

    How hateful! And they call themselves Christians. They don’t have a clue.

  • I have the names of the people who signed Lincoln’s anti-LGBT petition. Maybe its time to make it public who they really are?

  • shameless_1

    The bottom line here is that this like Roe V Wade is a non issue. “Life, Liberty and Justice for ALL” is the issue and evidently this holds true for the Religious community as long as you allow them to dictate how you live your life. 1st Amendment/Separation of Church and State is an issue and it’s far past time that the Gov. at all levels held the Religious Community accountable for their actions. The only reason they are allowed to be tax exempt is the mandate that they sty out of Gov. affairs. If they want a collective voice on Political issues then tax them. See how fast they shut their pie holes.
    As far as the Lincoln city Council goes they should simply pass the damned law and it does not need to be an issue anymore.
    every single person in this Country should be allowed equal rights and if the Religions people don’t like Gays then don’t marry one.

  • Bam

    Let me guess – you people who are against voter ID because it would deny people the right to vote are also against this petition because it would GIVE people the right to vote on an issue. Just checking.

    BTW, gay men have the same rights I do as a straight man – I’m not allowed to marry another man, either.

  • Bam

    I agree! This is also an example of why gender-preference issues shouldn’t be decided by the courts or councils.

  • Bam

    I find that people who use the word “hate” this often are usually haters themselves.

  • Bam

    If your objective is to intimidate and silence, sure. Do you also favor releasing the names of gays in Lincoln for the same purpose, or do you just want to selectively oppress a certain group of people?

  • Signatures on a petition for political issues are public per Nebraska statute. Its hardly an issue of intimidation, its called transparency. All citizens have the right to know who is influencing legislation the affects them. I don’t remember seeing anyone named Bam on the Lincoln petition.

  • The point is, you get to marry the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. That’s the point. EVERYONE should the right and the choice to marry the person they love, the person they wish to share a life with.

  • I wonder who all those people are, who signed that petition? Your friend, a neighbor, the hater down the street? We just might find out soon,

  • Bam

    Anyone can go down and look at those signatures anytime they want – that’s called making them public. And you don’t remember seeing my name on there? Better go back and check, in case you can’t memorize 10,000 names.

  • Bam

    There were lots of women I loved and wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That didn’t give me the right to marry them. And love is not a qualifier for marriage.

    Do you think straight men should be allowed to marry straight men? How about more than one man if they all love one another? Where do you draw the line and who gives you the right to draw it there?

  • If anyone can go see the names, then don’t accuse me of intimidation. Anyone of those people can pick up the ENTIRE list of names for a small fee and publish them, anywhere. I wonder how many of the signers new their signature could be made public when they signed the petition.? I suspect all those anti-gay christian petitioners didn’t tell a soul about that because they were so desperate to get those signatures.

  • Bam

    It’s one thing to go examine public records; it’s another thing to do what your talking about. I can’t imagine what your purpose would be in doing that other than to stoke fear and hatred, but if that’s the world you want to live in, then you’re no better than the people YOU accuse.

    Go ahead – knock yourself out. Kind of proves what I’ve always thought about “progressives” anyway.

  • Its just making easier access to what is already available.

  • JoeSixPack56

    Bunch of non-Christian Homophobes.
    Wasn’t Christ gay? He didn’t have any women in the chosen 12!
    I don’t think HE would bash gays like a few Lincoln church members are doing.

  • JoeSixPack56

    Someone in the old testament said if two men lie together they must be stoned!
    Can Lincoln legalize pot to make that legal?

  • ToucheTurtle

    If ‘this “issue” should be a non-issue,” WHY is this discussion taking place? Actually, this doesn’t appear to be an actual discussion where both sides should be able to respectfully present their views. It appears to be a name-calling fest by those who are ALREADY protected by the Laws of this country and this State!

  • ToucheTurtle

    Be careful . . . you might get what you wish for!!! The newspaper in NY that published the names of those who owned guns just let the criminals know who the NON-gun owners were!!! Then those folks were the ones who got burglarized!!!! “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” . . . . doesn’t seem like such a bad idea to me!

  • ToucheTurtle

    This has nothing to do with “hate” . . . it has to do with the fact that they abided by the law, got petitions signed to have the matter put on the ballot, and the mayor has been dragging his feet every since. Why would you want to incur the expense of a special election sometime “later” when it is more beneficial to the city gov’t and spend more tax dollars to in fact hold the election? Elections are not free you know!

    It is their legal right to expect the matter to be put on the ballot before all citizens of Lincoln as prescribed by the law! Of course, if you chose to only uphold the law when you think it benefits you, then you are probably a happy camper. Just remember there may be a time when you may want the law to be enforced to your benefit, and “the powers that be” fail to do it!!!

  • LukeinNE

    This. If I was a Lincoln resident and if this ordinance came up on the ballot, I’d vote to uphold the protections the council put in place. I disagree with the organizations behind this push, but they still have the right to do what they’re doing.

    The libs on here seem more interested in calling anyone who disagrees with them bigots to shut down the democratic process. Sorry, this is America, that’s not how things work.

  • James F

    Because there couldn’t possibly be a valid reason to oppose this piece of legislation which unashamedly provides the excuse for countless frivolous lawsuits whenever any “alternative lifestyle” person gets turned down for a some job or living accomodation regardless of whether or not the employer or landlord is even aware of the employee’s or tenet’s sexual orientation (I’ve never seen this question on any job or lease application) or actually has a legitimate reason for doing so (e.g. other more qualified individual, poor work ethic, unprofessional appearance or attitude, previous complaints, etc.). Liberal tort lawyers will have a field day persecuting every mom and pop shop who makes the mistake of not hiring every single LGBTQIA… (etc, etc) person who applies for a job or apartment. This is really just a ploy to generate a new revenue stream for liberal Democrat lawyers to funnel more money to their Democrat minions in D.C. at the expense of decent, hard-working business owners. As a Christian myself, I am neither “afraid of homosexuals” (homophic) nor do I value person more or less based solely on their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, etc. Generally, people like Mr. Watching_from_Lincoln (Vile Kyle?) here who have to resort to invectives and slander are usually the intolerant ones.

  • James F

    The question of redefining marriage comes down the question of “what is marriage for?” The answer to this is that marriage is for providing a stable environment to procreate and raise children. By the simple mechanics of biology and physiology, same-sex couples cannot procreate so the necessity for a marriage relationship does not apply. It is not “discrimination”, it is just science.

  • Libertarian01a

    WFL, Isn’t this fun. Let me see if I can agree with you and educate you at the same time. Christians, by the new testament which is the testament we now live under, should do two things in anything they do, 1. do it in a Christ like manner all 2. do it all for the glory of God. If one or both of these are missing, the actions are of man and not God. There is no where in the new testament where Christ tried to force his value on society. If you actually read the Bible, you would see that Christ could care less about the Roman government, it’s laws and who was in charge. It had nothing to do with him nor his mission on earth.The point is, as you once again generalize to paint those you don’t agree with a wide stroke, you are wrong. Or to put it another way, do all Liberals really support those who would like to change current law so that sex can take place between any adult and any child? Fascism is any party that strives to rule by itself and your group is just as guilty as any other. By the way, true Christians seek not to rule but to serve. Any examples to the contrary would have to have their Christian credentials examined or their ability to follow Bible severely questioned. If you can’t take the time to know something about those you demonize, you can sound pretty ignorant.

  • Libertarian01a

    I do fully agree with your last statement! Hope that doesn’t hurt your internet cred!

  • Libertarian01a

    However, Christians need to remember; Satan has dominion over the earth and therefore all systems on the earth are Satan’s. We are told not to get involved in the patterns (systems) of this world. Why? Next line is, so we can discern the will of God. Why is that important? Because doing things like this do not help us to reach those we are commanded to reach. We are to rejoice that we suffer in the name of Jesus. But we seem to not want to suffer any more. We also know that God will eventually end this world and start a new one. So it is ironic that we are using Satan’s worldly system to fight God’s plan for this world. And we worry Liberals and the gay folks?

  • Pat Boyle

    I thought you had a decent argument until you started on you bible rant.
    I’ll be wrong then and everyone can accuse me of being wrong for swinging the broad stroke of negative judgement on jesus freaks. You’ve earned it.
    I stopped following the bible 20 years ago because of people like you. I know everything I need to know about “you people.”
    Feel free to pray/wish for me, get me some lotto numbers.

  • Pat Boyle

    Worry us? Of course! You commanded by voices in your head!!

  • Libertarian01a

    I have often wondered how many times a person prays for someone they say they will pray for. Me, I’m bad at prayer so I won’t say something I will probably not do. Jesus freak, what is that? Does that make you an anti-Jesus freak? The biggest irony here is that you believe that a Christian has no right to force (vote) their views on society but you do. (From a biblical stand point, I agree.) However, from the constitutional point of view, we all have a right to vote the way we see fit. (You and I would both agree, from different points of view, that you can’t outlaw stupid.) To try and suppress that right is, I believe, a very big deal with the liberals at this time. Yet when they or the allies do it, it is just fine to shut out those Jesus freaks. Double standard hypocrisy? As to me, I do not care to worry about where the world is headed. Doesn’t matter, we can’t change it and we haven’t reversed the downward trend in hundreds if not thousand of years. Although I find writing on these boards a hard addiction to kick. So no I won’t arbitrarily pray for you, currently it’s a waste of time. You can continue to hide your head in the sand denying that everyone has the same rights regardless of belief, and I hope someday you can get rid of some of that anger that is chewing you up inside. I do find it amazing the amount of effort one puts into to dis-proving something they don’t even believe in!

  • Libertarian01a

    Should have said “worry about”. Sorry. And you are commanded by? Human reason, is an oxymoron. Science, is as polluted as anything else. How would anyone know this? Because pure and selflessness are not a traits of those who gain power in the human race. Power corrupts etc. Commanded by yourself. I can see by your example that compassion or honesty is not a strong suit in your guidance.

  • cliveklg

    Hating who? I don’t propose to oppress or deny the rights of any group. This group does.

    I find people who defend hate groups like this tend to be bigots themselves.

  • cliveklg

    It has everything to do with hate. Bigotry is based on hate and that is what this group is all about. They are bigots against the LGBT community and want to deny the the same rights and protections from discrimination as anyone else.

    You are protected from being fired because of your religion. They have the right to be protected from being fired because of their orientation.

    What is pathetic about the argument from the bigots is they are the same old tired excuses for bigotry just like the ones used during slavery. This is no different.

    They don’t choose to be gay, they are born that way and have every right to be protected from bigotry.

  • cliveklg

    They are made public so they can be used so people can question groups and people about supporting it. That is part of the point of it.

    It isn’t intimidation it is to spark debate, and to provide transparency.

    Same with segregation. Those who supported it wanted to hide their support of it. It should be out in the open so people can make decisions based on the information.

  • cliveklg

    Democracy has checks and balances and isn’t government by majority decree running roughshod over the rights of the minority.

    You are going to find yourself on the wrong end of history here, just as those who supported slavery, and then later segregation with the same arguments you use.

  • cliveklg

    If they are already protected, this clarification does no harm and shouldn’t be opposed.

    But we know they aren’t and without specific mention there will be those who will deny them their rights.

  • I said the names would be published, not their addresses. Get a clue. The names of the people who signed the Suttle Recall Petition was published by the OWH. No one was robbed, no addresses were published either. You are the scare tactic you are looking for.

  • Thanks, cliveklg, that is exactly correct!

  • They believe religious freedom allows them to force their beliefs on others, while trampling on the beliefs of others.

  • cliveklg

    “provides the excuse for countless frivolous lawsuits”

    Except in the hundred + cities that have similar legislation, that hasn’t happened, and has not been a problem.

    Basically you are wanting to not protect them based on a what if scenario, as opposed to the fact discrimination has and is occurring.

  • James F

    Like that hoax in Lincoln last year when that lesbian chick had a couple of her gay friends rough her up on purpose and then tried to claim it was a “hate crime” committed by straight dudes. Yeah, I see where this is legislation is going to take us…

  • James F

    “those who supported slavery”, by the way, were Democrats who later founded the Ku Klux Klan after a Republican president and House of Representives abolished slavery. “wrong of end history” is very relative term, especially since history is always in the making; the (political) pendulum always swings back, as they say.

  • James F

    “I don’t propose to oppress or deny the rights of any group.”
    Well, except for those “family value groups” and “people who defend” them, because they are automatically all racist, bigot, homophobes and therefore, if you mislabel them as such, then it’s okay to oppress them and deny their 1st Amendment rights. I LIKE GAY PEOPLE the same as regular people! I just think this legislation is an excuse for frivilous lawsuits (liberal tort lawyers love this kind of excuse to persecute Christian business owners).

  • Jerinne

    If Bam were as smart as he thinks he is, he would recognize marriage equality as a gender equality issue: why aren’t males allowed to marry the same sex females are? And vice versa.

    In Le Lys Rouge, Anatole France eloquently mocked the primitive mind set of people like Bam:

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike
    to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

  • Jerinne

    As a Christer, you say don’t value persons less because they are gay — you just want them to be without legal recourse if they are refused public accommodation, whereas you seem to be fine with the reality that a gay wedding planner could be sued by an antigay activist for refusing his or her business on account of the fact that Christian bigots are a protected class. Your “reasoning” can be boiled down to: “What yours is mine and what’s mine is mine.”

    Also, the judicious, fair-minded act just isn’t working, so why not drop it? I mean really — your insinuation that LGBT anti-bias laws require businesspeople to employ “every single” gay applicant is preposterous and only betrays how miserably prejudiced you really are.

    P.S. At least your protestation that you are not a homophobe is correct. You sound more like a heterosexual supremacist.

  • Jerinne

    Oh please. Stop pretending to be concerned about stoking “fear and hatred.” It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that your real concern is that people might not be able to sign a petition targeting their gay acquaintances and relatives without those people easily finding out who on their block or at work stabbed them in the back, politically.

  • Bam

    Your statement makes no sense and I will not respond.

  • Jerinne

    Actually, that’s not true. The election commissioner doesn’t have to retain the petition signatures indefinitely — only for about six months (if I remember correctly) after the referendum is certified. But not to worry. At least three people (and probably more) purchased the list during that window.

  • Bam

    You’re wrong, Jeri – better go check it again.

  • Jerinne

    This is something on which I would love to proved wrong! Show me the statute that requires indefinite retention of petition signatures.

  • Bam

    I don’t do homework for the students. You made the statement – YOU prove it. Otherwise we can only assume you made it up.

  • Jerinne

    And I’m not the librarian for people with short-term memory problems.

    You seem to have forgotten making the statement “Anyone can go down and look at those signatures anytime they want.”

    “Anytime” means petition signatures are retained indefinitely.

    Prove it.

  • Jerinne

    I’m not surprised that you have trouble grasping an analogy between the law treating gay people “equally” by allowing them to marry opposite sex partners (about which they could care less) and the law treating the rich “equally” by forbidding them to beg for bread.(about which they could care less).

    Or is it the gender equality argument that makes your head hurt?

  • James F

    Why do you resort to invectives and unfounded accusations? A person is not bigot just because he/she is Christian; that assumption is rather prejudiced itself! I think that any business owner, whether gay or straight, should be allowed to refuse any customer for any reason (if he wants to alienate a whole portion of his customer base, his lose!). The thing is, no one is entitled to a job, a place to live, or service at a business, because then that would put business owners (and employees) at the mercy of any schmuck who walked into their business. This law privileges a special interest group (LGBTQ) to be entitled to a job or accomodation at the expense of the opportunity of others. Employers and landlords are going to be pressured to hire an LGBTQ individual over another applicant, because this group of people now has this “recourse”, as you say, to assume that they would have been denied a job simply because of their sexual orientation, when again, it is not even likely that the employer or landlord would even know and chose to deny them rather on the basis of qualification, performance, professional attitude or appearance, etc. Even if there were a bias against LGBTQ individuals, this legislation now shifts that bias against non-LGBTQ persons.