Feeling of ‘despair’ as Lincoln City Council rescinds ‘Fairness Ordinance’ on 4-3 vote

City Council member James Michael Bowers is emotional after talking about his vote on the city’s so-called “Fairness Ordinance” during the Lincoln City Council meeting Monday at the County-City building. JAIDEN TRIPI, Journal Star

Margaret Reist – Jun 13, 2022 Updated 8 hrs ago – for the Lincoln Journal Star

My cmnt: The Left loves to pick euphemisms and outright misnomers for the nasty stuff they intend on imposing on the rest of us. There is nothing “fair” about this ordinance at all. I previously blogged about this unfairness ordinance here, here, here and here.

My cmnt: I previously predicted that there was no way that the Libs on the city council were going to let their unfairness doctrine be put to a vote here in Lincoln. It is sad, but not necessarily a mystery, why a largely conservative city can elect three openly gay council members and a Leftist mayor from Portland, Or. The answer is that too many of the biblical Christians in Lincoln, and all over America, do not get involved in political issues (nor vote) unless they believe it directly threatens clearcut, Christian doctrinal positions (or their livelihoods.) They strongly separate church and state and the secular from the sacred, especially dispensational Baptists and independent nondenominational congregational churches, from a long history of persecution by the State Church (i.e., the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church for examples). This allows the vocal, well-organized minority to have their way and impose their small minority will on the much larger majority.

My cmnt: So the city council and school boards can lean heavily Left and do what they want to the city as long as they don’t clearly step on any Christian toes. Abortion and transgenderism are two such issues that will turn the conservative Christians out to vote. Sadly trying to get them out to vote for councilmen and mayors in the first place does not compute with them. I’ve struggled my entire adult life against this mindset in fellow Christians but it doesn’t look like they are ever going to change.

The city no longer has a fairness ordinance that extends protections in city code to include gender expression and sexual orientation, following a narrow vote Monday by a City Council divided about how best to proceed on an issue they all said they support.

Bennie Shobe, the only council member not to say publicly how he would vote, ultimately sided with Richard Meginnis, Tom Beckius and James Michael Bowers in voting to rescind the ordinance the council passed on a 5-0 vote in February.

Sändra Washington, who introduced the ordinance, Jane Raybould and Tammy Ward all voted against rescinding it.

Meginnis made the motion to reconsider nearly four months after opponents launched a successful referendum, which means the council either had to put the ordinance to a vote or rescind it. He said now isn’t the right time to take it to a vote because it’s become too divisive.

My cmnt: Which is of course true, this ordinance is certainly divisive, but that is not the real reason the Lib council voted to rescind it. The real reason, as I’ve indicated previously, is that it would have gone down in flames if put to a vote of the people. That is why they will try, try again to sneak it in and hope nobody cares enough to stop them.

Shobe, who is Black, said he believes it is wrong to allow one group to vote on the civil rights of another – putting him in the position of making a horrible choice.

He talked about growing up in Kentucky, where his parents went to segregated schools and lived as second-class citizens until the Supreme Court and the Civil Rights Act guaranteed their rights under the law.

“However, if the civil rights of my parents had been put to a vote of the people I am confident they would have been denied,” he said.

The vote to rescind is a do-over, he said, and he’ll work to educate people about the legal rights the federal government granted to LGBTQ residents.

The vote illustrated the division that’s arisen among supporters.

From early on, some members of the transgender community have said they were concerned they would be targeted by the opposition and that supporters were unprepared to launch a successful campaign to win at the ballot box.

Others, including those who have worked for decades to have such rights made a part of city code, were convinced voters who elected a Democratic mayor and three openly gay council members would uphold the ordinance.

Washington, who is Black and openly gay, spoke to that division Monday, saying as maddening as opponents claims were, it was the opposition from the left that disappointed her.

She talked about the civil rights struggle, and how those Martin Luther King Jr. considered allies tried to convince him to wait.

“The journey toward the promise (of equality) was never guaranteed to be easy or short or convenient,” she said. “To the upcoming generations – to the youth of our city – I want you to know I see you. I have been where you stand now and I promise you it will get better.”

My cmnt: “The youth of our city” don’t give a rat’s ass about this stupid ordinance. They however, like their forebears, like to be congratulated upon how brave and courageous they are to support “civil rights” for gays and transpersons without actually doing anything really brave or courageous at all but rather simply following the crowd as in high school.

My cmnt: Bravery used to entail some actual display of courage like running towards the fire rather than away, or actually fighting in a war rather than protesting it safely in large, liberal cities and college campi. Police and firemen frequently demonstrate real bravery. College professors and college students in the humanities call it ‘brave’ to go vegan (sneaking a burger late at night in the drive-up) or make snide remarks about Christians, while studiously avoiding saying anything about the ‘religion of peace’ Islam or that pedophile Muhammed because Muslims might kill you if you do (even here in America).

Beckius and Bowers, the other two openly gay council members, both said they voted to rescind because they didn’t feel supporters were prepared to effectively win at the ballot box.

But Beckius noted that although protections are not specifically included in city code after Monday’s vote, those protections exist because of a 2020 Supreme Court ruling that said the definition of sex in the Civil Rights Act includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

Based on that ruling, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird signed an executive order last year saying the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights would investigate and enforce protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Initially, after the ordinance passed, it appeared there was enough support on the council to take it to a vote, but the death by suicide of a transgender advocate brought momentum to a halt.

Bowers also said, moving forward, it is important to put transgender voices at the center of the discussion.

“We will win when we have the ability and resources to counteract the lies and scare tactics from those whose actions intentionally or unintentionally create lifelong harm,” Bowers said. “We will continue to push forward while shielding our community from ongoing attacks on our freedom.”

My cmnt: The so-called “lies and scare tactics” are a projection of the Left upon the Right as they are the stock-in-trade of everything the Left does. We who would have voted down the Unfairness ordinance simply want our wives, sisters, mothers and daughters to have safe places to undress, shower and use the toilet without biological men with balls and tackle intact walking among them. We also wish to protect girls and women’s sports from biological males competing with them as pretend women, like the man Lia Thomas.

Raybould appealed to her colleagues to vote against rescinding the ordinance because it negated years of effort by many.

Ward said she rejects the argument that fear of losing means the ordinance shouldn’t proceed to a vote. She noted that Omaha passed a fairness ordinance 10 years ago “with no defeatism getting in their way” and no tragedies have followed there.

My cmnt: Having visited Omaha multiple times since they passed their unfairness ordinance I have not seen any increase in Trans restrooms anywhere. Nor have any boys pretended to be girls to participate in girls’ high school sports. This makes me wonder if the Omaha wording is different than the Lincoln wording or if the trans community is so tiny it makes no difference or if they are just holding back their demands to avoid a court fight or referendum that would put it to a vote of the people. I will find out and post it when I do.

“None. Yet here we are.”

The council also voted to rescind a fairness ordinance that’s been on the books since 2012, when a different council passed a more narrow ordinance extending the same protections to gay and transgender residents. That vote passed 5-2, with Tammy Ward joining the majority as a way to clean up the old legislation.

The Nebraska Family Alliance, which led the referendum petition drive, said the City Council did the right thing, and that the ordinance they’d dubbed the “transgender bathroom ordinance” was “needlessly divisive and undermined both fairness and freedom.”

But those who have been working for decades to see such protections made a part of city code said they were devastated by Monday’s vote.

“I just feel despair,” said Kay Siebler. “I hear Sändra (Washington) saying ‘hope’ but how can you hope when the very people that you put into office to advocate for you betray you in this way.”

Council members vowed to keep working to codify such rights.

“I will continue to advocate for the full inclusion of all,” Washington said. “Our work is not yet done and I have not lost hope.”

‘Not ready to go to war’ — Lincoln councilman will move to rescind so-called Fairness Ordinance

Margaret Reist – Jun 9, 2022 – for The Lincoln Journal Star

The Lincoln City Council on Monday will consider a motion to rescind the so-called Fairness Ordinance — a broad update that extends protections to include sexual orientation and gender expression.

City Councilman Richard Meginnis said he plans to introduce the motion to rescind the hotly debated ordinance that updates Title 11, the city’s code that deals with equal opportunity in housing, employment and public accommodations. He will also move to rescind a more narrowly worded Fairness Ordinance that has been in limbo for a decade.

Meginnis said he introduced the motions because he thinks it’s important to start with a clean slate and make the process more community-oriented and ensure everyone is involved in the discussion.

“I’m doing it because I think it’s divisive,” he said. “I really believe our community is not ready to go to war on this at this point … I just know there’s a fear and people have been able to use this to drive a wedge between people in Lincoln.”

Meginnis is supported by at least two of his colleagues: James Michael Bowers and Tom Beckius, two of three openly gay members of the Council. Both support expanding protections, but say they listened to concerns of the transgender and nonbinary community.

“The majority of attacks on Title 11 or the ‘fairness ordinance’ are based on lies and scare tactics against our transgender nonbinary community members,” Bowers said, and those voices must be at the center of the next steps.

“After hard conversations and some devastating losses in our community, the message is clear, we must rescind the ordinance, continue to strengthen our relationships with honest conversations, support, and acceptance, and move forward as a united community for all,” Bowers said.

Beckius said the decision to vote to rescind is “heart-wrenching” but the right one for now.

“Opponents have already used false and misleading information with no regard for the well-being of our transgender community,” he said. “So the lack of an organized campaign to win at the ballot box is rash. It just isn’t wise to proceed at this time.”

The ordinance — introduced by Councilwoman Sändra Washington, the third openly gay member of the council — has been the subject of heated debate not only with opponents but with supporters who disagree on how best to proceed.

It passed on a 5-0 vote Feb. 14. Meginnis and Beckius were absent. Opponents, led by the Nebraska Family Alliance, mounted a successful referendum petition, which required the council either to put the issue to a vote of the people or rescind it.

Initially, it appeared there were enough council votes to take the ordinance to a public vote, but the death by suicide of a transgender activist brought the momentum to a halt.

Now, it appears the fate of the ordinance rests with Bennie Shobe, who has not responded to phone calls for comment. 

While Meginnis, Bowers and Beckius support rescinding it, Washington, Jane Raybould and Tammy Ward oppose the move. 

Lincoln For All, the organization created to support the ordinance that includes Washington and Raybould, issued a statement saying the ordinance was a result of a two-year process involving many stakeholders.

“The timing of this motion — during Pride Month, and at the start of Lincoln’s Pride Week — is especially disappointing, and shows a lack of respect for the LGBTQIA+ community,” Washington said. “A repeal of Title 11 slows our progress on non-discrimination for veterans, people with disabilities, and based on race.”

Raybould added, “We remain committed to ensuring our city is inclusive and welcoming.”

Ward said she’s sensitive to the concerns raised, but believes it should go before voters, though she’s unsure what the right timing for a vote would be.

“We don’t know if we don’t try,” she said. “A lot of people have waited a long time for this moment … I’m disappointed and frustrated. But it’s not mine to lead.”

Ward said she does intend to vote to rescind the 10-year-old ordinance, to get it off the books and move forward with a new ordinance.

Nate Grasz, policy director for the Nebraska Family Alliance, said rescinding the ordinance is the right decision:

“The City Council, we hope, will listen to concerns of citizens on both sides of the issue asking them to rescind the ordinance.”

As written, he said, the ordinance’s overbroad definition of public accommodation applied to private schools, churches and businesses but not public buildings, and the religious exemption was too narrow. He called the ordinance coercive, and said it would punish people because they had different ideologies.

Meginnis said he thinks protections should be expanded, but he signed the referendum petition because, at the time, he felt like a vote was the only way to settle the issue with the community.

Now, he said, he thinks it’s time to step back and start fresh.

Natalie Weiss, a transgender activist, is happy to see the motion introduced.

“I support this,” Weiss said. “This what I, personally, have been working on since it was introduced in February, along with a lot of other people. I think it’s the most responsible thing for the community to be doing in this moment and I’m glad they’re doing it.”

The issue of extending protections to include sexual orientation and gender expression in housing, employment and public accommodation has been in the shadows for a decade.

Ten years ago, a different City Council passed a more narrowly worded ordinance to extend such protections and, after a successful referendum, the council took no action either to rescind the ordinance or let voters decide.

When Washington introduced the ordinance updating Title 11 earlier this year, the landscape had changed significantly since 2012.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and in 2020 the high court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The 2020 decision related to employment, but the Biden administration applied the language to the federal Housing and Urban Development and Equal Opportunity Commission, which is being challenged by 20 state attorneys general including Nebraska.

The ordinance introduced by Washington aligned Title 11 with federal law and included public accommodation. It also updates language and reorganizes the city code to clarify the process of the city’s Human Rights Commission, adds military and veterans as a protected class and strengthens disability protections.

But early on, advocates in the transgender and nonbinary community expressed concerns about the timing of introducing the ordinance, predicted they’d be targeted and didn’t think supporters were adequately prepared to defend against the messaging of well-organized opponents.

And opponents did focus much of their campaign on the transgender community, dubbing it the “transgender bathroom ordinance.” They also blanketed the city with “Let Us Vote” signs, a reference to the 2012 ordinance that was never taken to the ballot box.

Milo Winslow, a transgender activist who had been vocal about concerns of transgender people being targeted, died by suicide just two days after the Nebraska Family Alliance announced they’d collected more than four times the number of signatures needed. Before his death, he sent council members a message asking them to rescind the ordinance.

Since then, the issue has been on hold, though both the Lancaster County Democrats and the Stonewall Democrats passed resolutions urging the council to rescind. Others have sent messages to the council urging them to move forward.

Abbi Swatsworth, executive director of OutNebraska — an advocacy organization that supported the ordinance — said they’ve heard from people on both sides of the debate by supporters and she hopes the council listens to all those perspectives moving forward.

“The council should recognize that our diverse community has a variety of perspectives on how to move forward with full freedom from discrimination for the whole Lincoln community,” she said.

County Democrats pass resolution urging Lincoln City Council to rescind fairness ordinance

By Margaret Reist – Apr 25, 2022 Updated Jun 9, 2022 – Lincoln Journal Star

Lincoln City Councilwoman Sändra Washington speaks during the Feb. 7 council meeting on her proposed ordinance to expand the city’s protection against discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.JUSTIN WAN, Journal Star file photo

The Lancaster County Democrats passed a resolution urging the Lincoln City Council to rescind the so-called Fairness Ordinance, which has been in limbo since February when the council updated city code to extend protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We had a two-hour-long discussion with folks on both sides making good arguments,” said Hannah Wroblewski, chair of the Lancaster County Democrats. “As a party we support protections for transgender and gender expansive families, but we need to make sure we are in the best position to win.”

It’s also important, she said, to make sure members of the transgender community are at the table during the discussion, and that their safety and mental health needs are addressed.

She said about 60% of the central committee’s members present Tuesday voted for the resolution. The group will send a letter to the council urging them to rescind the ordinance for now. The Nebraska Stonewall Democrats, a caucus that advocates for LGBTQ issues, passed a similar resolution.

The votes highlights the division about how to proceed with the ordinance since the City Council passed it and a well-organized Nebraska Family Alliance launched a successful petition drive to put the question on the ballot.

The ordinance broadly updates the city’s Title 11, the portion of city code that deals with equal opportunity in employment, housing and public accommodation.

In addition to extending protections to include sexual orientation and gender expression, the ordinance updates language and reorganizes the section to clarify the process of the city’s Human Rights Commission, adds military and veterans as a protected class and strengthens disability protections.

Protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, though, have been the flashpoint.

The successful referendum means the council can either put the ordinance to a vote, or rescind it. The Lancaster County Democrats, like others who have advocated rescinding the ordinance, support the ideology and would back reintroducing it at a later time.

There are other options: revising the ordinance, or – as happened in 2012 – doing nothing.

A decade ago the council passed a narrower fairness ordinance that dealt only with gender identity and sexual orientation. After opponents mounted a successful referendum petition drive, the council neither rescinded it nor took it to a vote, and it had been in limbo since.

This time around, at least four of the council’s seven members initially said they were ready to let voters decide. But the death by suicide of a transgender activist caused the council to pause.

Milo Winslow – who had been vocal about his concerns that opponents would target the transgender community – was the only transgender individual to testify in support of the ordinance. But before he died – just two days after the Nebraska Family Alliance announced they’d collected four times the number of signatures necessary to put the question on the ballot – he sent council members a letter asking them to rescind it.

In addition to the concern about opponents targeting the transgender community, Winslow and other transgender advocates had talked publicly about their concerns that the ordinance was ill-timed and that supporters weren’t adequately prepared to defend it at the ballot.

The path forward still seems unclear.

At least three council members – Tom Beckius, James Michael Bowers and Richard Meginnis – are considering rescinding the ordinance, though each said they’d still consider other options.

“This is a tough situation and I don’t know that I’m any further along in figuring out our next steps than I was last month,” Beckius said.

Jane Raybould, Sandra Washington and Tammy Ward all said they still think it’s important to move forward with a vote, though the timing and whether the support is there remains a question.

Bennie Shobe couldn’t be reached for comment.

“I think it’s still important, but I’m just one vote,” said Washington, who introduced the ordinance. “I think this is a really critical issue for Lincoln. I still believe strongly that the protections offered under Title 11 are really important for Lincoln. I am frustrated by the massive amount of misinformation.”

Raybould said she had just heard about the county Democrat’s resolution and wasn’t ready to comment, but hasn’t changed her opinion about wanting to let voters decide. Ward also said she wanted to move forward, but there’s still a lot of discussion about timing.

Meginnis said he’d support rescinding the ordinance as the best way to avoid a divisive campaign on both sides, though he’s open to finding a compromise.

Bowers said the county party’s resolution represents the hard conversations that have happened before and since the ordinance was introduced and passed. He said he’s proud of the LGBTQ community – including trans and nonbinary members – for speaking up.

“I appreciate that our community is having this conversation about how to move forward,” he said. “I can’t speak to where the other council members are at, but I’m … putting the voices of transgender and nonbinary leaders in our community at the center of this.”

Beckius said he appreciates the thought behind the county Democrats’ resolution but isn’t convinced rescinding the ordinance is the right way to go. Still, it’s something he is seriously considering as the best path forward now.

“I have yet to see a plan at this point and a path forward to winning,” he said.

Beckius would also consider revising the ordinance to remove protections under public accommodation – a point of focus for opponents – but he’s not sure how much support that would garner. It wouldn’t include all the protections he and others want, but it would be something.

“At the end of the day, is something better than nothing? That’s the question I ask myself.”

2 thoughts on “Feeling of ‘despair’ as Lincoln City Council rescinds ‘Fairness Ordinance’ on 4-3 vote

  1. I would think that if someone else gives you your right, it can never be taken away, but if you take it for yourself, you can lose it at any time. Womens’ rights were won by men fighting for them. Blacks’ rights were won by white men fighting for them. Commoners’ rights were won by aristocrats fighting for them.

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