Editor’s Note: There are a number of documents embedded here, so please be patient as the entire article loads up. We will be adding some additional information to this article late Wednesday, May 16 PM – early Thursday, May 17 AM, so please check back if you visit between those times.
You are probably aware that the Lincoln City Council voted on Monday, May 14th, to amend the city Municipal Code’s “Equal Opportunity” provisions, expanding the definition of the classes of people protected by that ordinance to include sexual preference and gender identity. This action was taken in defiance of an Attorney General’s opinion that the Council lacks legal authority to take such an action under Lincoln’s Home Rule Charter and, in particular, in defiance of state law that prohibits sexual preference and gender identity from being used to qualify someone as a member of a protected class. (Click HERE for an article detailing some history regarding legal opinions on this issue.)
The purpose of a home rule charter is to enable a city to be self-governing as to matters of local concern. Stated another way, a home rule charter city is independent of state law with respect to strictly local matters. But, as to matters of state concern, state law controls over provisions of the city’s charter. In this respect, a city’s charter functions with respect to state government very much the same way state constitutions function within our federal constitutional system.
Through the charter, a city’s inhabitants set up a system of local government, enumerating and delegating to the city certain powers over matters of local concern. If a power with respect to a matter of local concern isn’t addressed in the charter, the city simply lacks any authority respecting that matter unless and until it secures the power through amendment of its charter by a vote of the people. But, as stated above, there is an additional limitation upon the powers a charter city may enjoy. Any charter adopted by a city’s inhabitants must be “consistent with and subject to the constitution and laws of the state.” (Nebraska Constitution, Article XI, Sec. 2.)
In the opinion of the Attorney General, Lincoln does not have the power to expand the protected classes identified under state law, period. In other words, recognizing protected classes is a state, as opposed to a local, matter. But, even if the City of Lincoln had the power to do so (even if recognizing protected classes WAS a local concern), the city could not take action without amending the city’s charter, which requires a vote of the people. Yet, the Lincoln City Council chose to substitute its own judgment for that of the people. Those five people decided they know better than the remaining 260,000 Lincolnites. When we heard of the vote, we recalled Nancy Pelosi’s comment when she was asked to identify where in the U.S. Constitution Congress was authorized to enact an individual insurance mandate. She responded in a very derisive tone, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” By their vote, these five Council members said the same thing to all of us on Monday. “Question our authority? Are you serious? Are you serious?”
Nor are the two Republican members of the Council, who abstained from voting on the ordinance, free from reproach. They based their decision to abstain on the ground that the City Council’s lack of authority to legislate with regard to this matter deprived them, as sitting members of the Council, of any authority to vote with respect to it. I find it interesting, however, that both of them voted to approve the AMENDMENT to the ordinance that was voted upon during the same Council session[1. Editor’s Note: Following the parallels to the health care “reform” debacle, such as the Nancy Pelosi mention included, it COULD be said that votes by Adam Hornung and Jon Camp for an amendment to “improve” the ordinance is exactly like the Stupak Amendment passed in the house. “Pro-life” Congressmen rationalized their vote for that provision, noting that if they couldn’t stop the passage of the bill, they could at least mitigate some damage. However, such rationalizations by elected officials are very short-sighted. Stupak’s maneuvering, along with the votes to pass his amendment actually helped to get the health care law passed. In addition, Hornung and Camp, particularly Camp have had at least one prior opportunity to expose the significant problems with Rod Confer’s legal opinions but have not chosen to lift a finger. We will elaborate on this point in the next few days.].
A petition drive is currently in progress to allow the people of Lincoln to vote on the ordinance, but time is of the essence. Organizers only have 15 days from the date the ordinance was approved to secure 2500 signatures on referendum petition forms. A very large and motivated crowd of volunteers convened at a local church on Tuesday evening, May 15th, to obtain copies of the referendum petition forms and receive some instruction in how to go about collecting signatures in compliance with the law — both state and local. Blank petition forms can be printed out at links below. If you intend to collect more than 10 signatures, you’ll need to print out two different pages, as noted in the Guidelines set out below.
PLEASE READ AND BE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE GUIDELINES BEFORE YOU PRINT ANY FORMS AND ATTEMPT TO COLLECT ANY SIGNATURES. YOUR FAILURE TO FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES WILL INVALIDATE ANY SIGNATURES YOU COLLECT.
GUIDELINES FOR PETITION CIRCULATORS
- YOU, the circulator, must be a registered voter in the City of Lincoln[2. If there is ANY question regarding a petition signer’s eligibility, in other words, if they are not sure if they are a registered voter within the City of Lincoln, there are two ways to confirm. Click HERE to visit a page on our site with brief information and links.]
- Each petition form has two pages. Page 1 is entitled “City of Lincoln Referendum Petition” and has space for 10 signatures and signer information. Page 2 has space for 20 additional signatures and signer information.
- Your name and information must appear as the FIRST signer on the FIRST page of the petition you are circulating (i.e., on Line # 1, page 1).
- You must tell EACH petition signer: “To be eligible to sign the petition, you must be a registered voter within the City of Lincoln.”
- You must tell EACH petition signer: “This petition is to allow the people of Lincoln to vote on the ordinance that added sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes in the city code.”
- You must read to EACH petition signer the WARNING TO PETITION SIGNERS that appears on the first page of the petition.
- You must make sure that EACH petition signer dates, signs, and prints their name and their birth date on the petition.
- If you think you will collect enough signatures to fill up all the signature lines on page 1 and page 2 of a single petition form, you may make and use additional copies of a blank petition page 2, BUT the page must be copied or printed out “AS IS” or all signatures will be declared invalid. Any copies of either page 1 or page 2 of the petition form must be made or printed out IN COLOR to include the RED letters at the bottom.
- You are responsible to ensure that every sheet you collect with signatures is notarized by a notary public. Notary publics can be secured at banks, real estate agents, or legal/attorney offices.
- You must record the sum total of ALL the signatures you have collected at the bottom of EACH PAGE of the petition when signing it before a notary.
- You must return your petition immediately once you have finished collecting signatures so referendum drive organizers can begin tabulating.
- Return petitions to: Nebraska Family Council, 1106 E Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508.
ALL PETITIONS MUST BE RETURNED BY MAY 28TH @ 5:00 P.M.
There will be individuals watching to make sure you do everything correctly, so be on your guard.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Can a church participate in the petition drive?
Yes. This petition drive doesn’t endorse a candidate and is non-partisan. This petition simply asks that the ordinance go to a public vote. Therefore, churches and non-profits can collect signatures if they have petition circulators present the petition.
Can I sign the petition if I have not voted?
Yes. You must be a registered voter in the City of Lincoln, but it is not necessary to have voted.
Can I have an assistant help me collect signatures?
No. Allowing someone else to present the petition to signers will render all signatures invalid.
Do I have to support or oppose the ordinance to sign the petition?
No. The petition is simply about letting Lincoln voters decide the issue instead of the City Council.
What do I do if a signer makes a mistake when he or she is signing the form?
If a signer makes an error in signing the petition form (e.g., by misspelling a name or street address or by writing an incorrect birth date or house number), have the signer
- draw a line through the entire signature line on which the mistake occurred (much like you would void a check you’ve written in error);
- place his or her initials next to the entire signature line that has just been crossed out; and
- then sign and complete the petition information accurately on the line immediately below the one where the error occurred.
Can I collect signatures outside a store or shopping center?
If you want to collect signatures on the private property of any business, which includes the parking lot and the approach to the business’ doors as well as inside the business itself, you must first ask and secure the business’ permission to do so. Please politely accept NO for an answer, if that is the answer you receive in response. If you obtain permission to collect signatures at a business:
- DO NOT obstruct the entry to and exit from the business,
- DO NOT persist in efforts to obtain a signature from someone who is unwilling to engage in discussion with you and/or sign the petition
- DO NOT otherwise annoy, unnecessarily detain, or argue with customers or employees of the business
DOWNLOADABLE / PRINTABLE DOCUMENTS:
NOTE: The embedded PDF versions you see here have been uploaded to our account on Scribd.com. If you do not have a Scribd.com account you may not be able to print them, so if you don’t have an account, use the DIRECT DOWNLOAD links provided.
PETITION CIRCULATORS GUIDELINES – *VERY IMPORTANT*
Guidelines for Petition Circulators (updated as of May 17)
Direct download HERE
CITY OF LINCOLN REFERENDUM PETITION – PAGE 1
Direct download HERE
CITY OF LINCOLN REFERENDUM PETITION – PAGE 2
Direct download HERE
Effects of the new ordinance, handouts:
Since these document embeds really slow the page down, we’re only including one embed of the three handouts about the effects of the ordinance here. Rather than an embed for the other two, a link to the document on Scribd has been provided.
Effects on Work
Direct download HERE
Effects on Business
Direct download HERE
View on Scribd
Effects on Church
Direct download HERE
View on Scribd
LIST OF LINKS INCLUDED IN THE ARTICLE, ABOVE:
Note that all of the links, below, lead to PDF documents. We will be uploading these items to the Scribd account as well for people who don’t have their computer / browser set up to open PDFs on their screen without downloading. Once they are uploading, we will update this article.
Attorney General Opinion regarding such ordinances
Home Rule Charter – Chapter 14 of Nebraska Statutes
WANT TO SIGN A PETITION BUT NEED SOMEONE TO BRING IT TO YOU?
IF you are considering circulating petitions and can volunteer to do some signature collecting by taking the petition TO people, please use the contact form below to let us know that you are willing.
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