For the second time this year Lincoln is facing the prospect of holding a vote on the civil rights of its LGBT2QIA+ population. This issue is something many in our city, and in our community have been working on since the city’s first vote on the matter in 1982. That year Lincoln voters rejected LGBT2QIA+ protections with 78% voting against. In the following four decades Lincoln has made significant progress. We elected our first three openly LGBT2QIA+ identified City Council members, our first out gay man to the Lower Platte South NRD, our first out gay man to Lincoln’s Airport Authority, our first out lesbian woman to the LPS Board, and more elected officials who have run on LGBT2QIA+ equality. Thanks to the leadership of City Councilor James Michael Bowers, we were also able to ban conversion therapy in the city of Lincoln.
Like Lincoln, a handful of other locales have had to pass these updates through a public ballot initiative, and we have seen mixed results. The most politically similar situation happened in Houston, TX in 2015 with the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or the HERO act. That year, Houston had an out lesbian Mayor and a Democratic majority City Council. Unlike “Let Lincoln Vote”, the proponents of HERO were willing to fund a campaign, raised $1,918,557 and lost 61%-39%. HERO lost at the ballot because opposition messaging against the transgender community is effective in these ballot initiatives and requires strong organization and significant funding to counter in front of voters. In Anchorage, AK proponents had a full year between introduction of a “fairness ordinance” in their City Assembly and what they knew would be an inevitable vote, not the 3-month timeframe “Let Lincoln Vote” would like to impose for Lincoln. They were able to raise in excess of $500,000 and squeaked by with a 53%-47% victory.
In both examples, proponents of LGBT2QIA+ legal equality spent months preparing and fundraising prior to placing the issue in front of voters. Those preparations are necessary for the prospect of success in any ballot initiative that centers on trans people using bathrooms, which is how our opponents will frame this issue when the time comes to have this vote. When we lost this issue in front of voters in Lincoln in 1982, it took our city 30 years before the political environment was conducive enough to allow for another attempt. If we hold a vote without the proper groundwork and lose, it could be several decades before we could attempt again.
Our opposition to a fairness ordinance vote this year is not about a lack of will or want to see these protections in our city for active-duty military, people with disabilities, tribal affiliations, racial minorities, and all other people who are like us and call Lincoln home. It is about stark political, funding, and organizational realities that must be addressed before such a significant undertaking could be reasonably mounted. We will continue to advocate for advances for our communities that we have the capacity to seek and which carry the lowest amount of potential harm. An earnest effort for legal equality in Lincoln will come, but we must be serious about our intention and intentional about our planning. It is with dutiful consideration of these realities that we ask all Lincolnites who care about our legal progress to not act in haste or with emotion on an issue where we will have but one chance, and to not sign the “Let Lincoln Vote” petition.
Natalie Weiss (she/her) – Chair, Nebraska Stonewall Democrats
Michael Marcheck (he/him) – Vice Chair, Nebraska Stonewall Democrats
Luke Peterson (he/him) – Treasurer, Nebraska Stonewall Democrats
Hannah Wroblewski (she/her) – Chair, Lancaster County Democratic Party
Lee Langlois (they/them) – 2nd Vice Chair, Lancaster County Democratic Party
Rachele Walter (she/they) – Chair, Secular Democrats of Nebraska
Bri Buser (she/they) – Licensed Realtor, Nebraska Realty
Sarah Walker (she/her) – Former Chair, Nebraska Stonewall Democrats
Joe Shaw (he/him) – Former Chair, Nebraska Stonewall Democrats
Isabel Salas (she/her) – Former Secretary, Nebraska Stonewall Democrats
Adelle Burke (she/her) – Former CD 1 Director, Nebraska Stonewall Democrats
Eric Reiter (they/them) – Former 1st Associate Chair, Lancaster County Democratic Party
J Petersen (he/him) – Former Treasurer, Nebraska Young Democrats
Cassey Lottman (she/they) – Former Candidate, Lincoln City Council
Victory Klafter (he/they) – Campaigns Organizer in Lincoln
Kam Neeman-Wilkinson (he/him) – Community Organizer/ Activist
Maghie Miller Jenkins (she/her) -Community Organizer/ Activist
Mar Lee (they/them) – Community Organizer, Transgender Lincolnite
Andrew Farias (he/him) – Community Organizer, Transgender Lincolnite
Kinzie Mabon (she/they) – Community Member
Lizzie Turner (she/her) – Community Member