|Patrick Bonnett speaking at Tea Party rally in 2011
By Chris Dyer | OMAHA, NE — An outspoken opponent of LGBT equality rights in Omaha has launched a petition drive to overturn the city’s legal protections for LGBT residents. Patrick Bonnett, CEO of Omaha based Encore Financial Services, Inc.
, and head of the Tea-Party group calling itself the Omaha Liberty Project, said that his group aided in the effort by another group, Christian Couples Fellowship International, headed by executive director Femi Awodele, are confident that both groups can quickly surpass the roughly 11,400 signatures required to put the measure before voters.
Bonnett said that their goal is to attract far more than that number of signatures.
“We’re confident we’ll get the signatures fairly rapidly,” said Patrick Bonnett, in an interview Wednesday with the Omaha World Herald. “After that, we’ll probably take our time to validate the signatures that we know we have and give the city and county governments time to get through the fall presidential election,” Bonnett said.
Bonnett also told the paper that the coalition is sponsoring training sessions for petition circulators, and signature-gathering efforts have begun within some area congregations. Several hundred petition circulators are now working to gather the needed signatures. The World Herald reported
that Bonnett’s group and Awodele’s are also being aided by the Heritage Coalition. That coalition, made up of local clergy, issued a proclamation earlier this year opposing the expansion of the city’s anti-discrimination laws to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents.
Omaha’s City Council narrowly approved the anti-discrimination measure in March in a 4-3 vote which gave the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens the ability to file complaints with the city’s Human Rights and Relations Department if they were fired from a job because of their orientation, suffered other workplace discrimination or were somehow refused a public accommodation. Religious organizations are exempt from the regulations.
Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray, who authored the anti-bias ordinance, reacted Wednesday by saying: “This group, whoever it is, must seem to think discrimination against some people is OK,” he said.