Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler says he leans toward placing an expansion of the city anti-discrimination ordinance on the ballot.
A petition drive has gathered more than 10,000 signatures to force a city-wide vote on whether to expand the ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in employment, housing and public accommodation anti-discrimination laws.
Beutler says it might be time for the people to decide the issue.
“With respect to this matter, since the number of signatures, assuming the number of signatures is there, I think the people have done what they need to do under the law to indicate that they would like to have a vote on the matter. And I think it should be voted on,” Beutler tells Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN’s Jack and John Show.
The petition drive needed to collect slightly under 2,500 signatures to place the issue on the ballot for a vote of the people. It was launched by those opposed to the city council vote that expanded city anti-discrimination laws. Organizers insist that the issue is big enough and sensitive enough that it warrants a vote of the city as a whole.
Though Beutler says he now favors a ballot determination of the issue, he defends the city council action in changing the law.
“Well, I don’t believe that the law indicates that it should have gone to a vote at the beginning. I don’t think that’s a correct reading of the law and as you know we’ve protected several classifications using an ordinance not a vote of the people,” according to Beutler. “So, I think the council did it the right way.”
Beutler says legal questions about the petition drive remain unanswered. The mayor says he will be talking with the city legal department about those. Beutler adds that the city needs to find a way to resolve the issue.