Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman

Gov. Dave Heineman says voters should be given a say on city ordinances in Lincoln and Omaha that would ban discrimination against gay and transgender people.

"I think in both cases ... they should put it to the vote of the people," Heineman said during a Tuesday morning news conference, citing a recent attorney general's opinion that says the cities would have to amend their city charters to offer such protections to groups not covered by state law.

In Lincoln, volunteers are working this week to get the Lincoln ordinance on the ballot by collecting signatures calling for a referendum on the issue.

Al Riskowski, executive director of Nebraska Family Council, is hopeful they will get the necessary 2,500 signatures from registered voters by the May 29 deadline.

"We know we have over 200 petitioners out there," and most petitions coming back have about 20 signatures, Riskowski said Tuesday afternoon. 

"That makes us very hopeful we can get enough signatures."

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Many churches had petitions available after services last week, including all of the local Catholic churches and some Lutheran ones, he said.

Under the city charter, opponents to an ordinance have 15 days to collect signatures to get the issue on a citywide ballot.    

The number of signatures required is 4 percent of the number of Lincoln voters in the last gubernatorial election.

Supporters say protection is necessary because there is real discrimination. Twenty-seven percent of 770 Nebraskans participating in a 2011 online survey said they had experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace in the past five years because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But opponents of the fairness ordinance, who believe homosexual behavior is a sin, say the measure will require them to abandon their faith at the doorsteps of their churches.

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Reach Kevin O'Hanlon at 402-473-2682 or kohanlon@journalstar.com. Reach Nancy Hicks at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com.

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