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Birth of a Nuisance

City Council’s vote against protecting gay community from discrimination noted nationally

“Horrible.” That’s how Jeff Schamp described the gay community's perception of Omaha after the City Council voted against an ordinance on Oct. 26 prohibiting discrimination based on sexual identity and gender expression. “When you look at this big picture, it’s shocking what they came down with,” says Schamp, executive director of Citizens For Equal Protection. That picture was seen far outside Omaha. Bloggers from New York City to Salt Lake City took up the cause, posting contact information for council members and the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. “If you were planning on any business or personal travel to Omaha, let the Chamber of Commerce know if this news changes your plans,” Joe Jervis wrote on his popular blog, Joe My God. The blog's coverage of gay rights issues has been featured on MSNBC and in The Village Voice. The Twitter hash tag #OmahaCityCouncil burned for days with messages of outrage, disappointment and support for the local GLBT community. Schamp says his organization has been contacted by a number of national gay rights advocacy groups as it plans its next step in the fight for protection from discrimination. Despite mounting pressure from business owners and religious groups who opposed the ordinance, the decision still came as a shock to Schamp. “I was surprised, very much so,” Schamp says. “The couple of votes on the council we had the night before didn’t show up the next day.” The amendment to the city charter, introduced by Councilman Ben Gray, failed on a 3-3 vote. Councilmen Gray, Pete Festersen and Chris Jerram voted in favor of the ordinance. Thomas Mulligan, Garry Gernandt and Jean Stothert voted against. Franklin Thompson abstained. Schamp says his organization is working on a process that could bring the matter back before the council in the coming months.

posted at 05:15 pm
on Wednesday, November 03rd, 2010

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