Fairness Ordinance petition language issue

By: Cole Miller

The Lincoln City Council approved the ordinance earlier this month.  It protects gays and transgenders in the workplace.

As for the petition drive, it's being led by the Nebraska Family Council and Family First Nebraska.  They say they now have enough signatures to ask the Lincoln City Council to leave the vote up to the people.

But they now face a bit of a road block.  The groups say City Attorney Rod Confer told them the petitions were worded or formed improperly.  Confer says because he represents the city and city officials, he can't offer legal advice to anyone but his clients.

Family First Nebraska executive director Dale Bydalek says his team of lawyers can't find anything wrong with the petition language.

“We've looked at it. We can't see anything that we believe is detrimental to the petition process. So, we're left to guess at what Mr. Confer could be talking about,” said Bydalek.

The groups want the citizens of Lincoln to be able to vote on the ordinance.   

“Bottom line is, it seems to me that on this issue, the Mayor, the City Council, the City Attorney would not so much want to govern us but basically rule over us in the way they've dealt with the issue and I think that rubs people the wrong way,” said Bydalek.

We spoke with Confer, but he didn't offer any additional comment.  Thursday afternoon, Mayor Chris Beutler released a statement saying “the city attorney is bound by both state and city law to defend any measure passed by the city council and signed by the mayor.  He cannot ethically represent both sides of an issue.”

The group has until Monday night to collect 2,500 signatures,  but we're told they already have at least 5,000.

If the signatures are verified a couple of things could happen:  The city council could repeal the ordinance and put it on the ballot for voters. Or, the city could challenge the petition in court.