Village of Lake Orion Moves Forward with Human Rights Ordinance

dickeys top MEATSVillage of Lake Orion Moves NewWay_Jazz_TuesdaysForward with Human Rights Ordinance

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 22, 2016)

Lake Orion, MI – “It’s really time for the village to make another kind of decision – that discrimination is not okay and diversity is welcome in our community.”

Attorney Ken Mogill’s words summed up the discussion that preceded a vote by the Lake Orion Village Council to accept the first reading of an inclusive human rights ordinance.  The ordinance, if adopted, would make it a misdemeanor to discriminate on the basis of  religion, race,lynn_stange_03 color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity.  It would apply to employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations.

“This ordinance is an opportunity to make the kind of statement that needs to be made,” Mogill said.  “The second issue is, if we are doing this how do we make it work?  The first issue is, as a community is it our position that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is not acceptable. The first step to me is do we want to make that statement or do we not want to make that statement.”

Mogill is a Lake Orion resident and an attorney that was on the winning team that brought a lawsuit against the State of Michigan for denying second parent adoption and same-sex marriage. royal_services He and others in the audience spoke about the discrimination faced by LGBT people throughout Michigan.

People in Michigan can be fired for being gay or transgender. They can be denied housing or thrown out of their homes.  They can be kicked out of stores and denied service.  They can be denied medical treatment and access to medications.  They can be harassed. These things are legal in Michigan because sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under the state’s civil rights law.  And these things happen often enough that many people are forced to hide who they are.   Cities across Michigan have been enacting local human rights ordinances to make sure residents and guests to their communities know they are Pledge_side_blueentering a welcoming environment where they are less-likely to be treated like a second-class citizen.

Lake Orion resident Lisa Goyettee led the effort to get the ordinance addressed.  She and other supporters had attempted to have an ordinance put on the books in Lake Orion Township, only to have the council issue a non-binding resolution giving general support to the idea of not discriminating.  So she came to the Village, and had been happy with the dialogue that’s taken place.  “That means a lot to me because I really feel that you are listening to us.   It’s a good feeling to move this along in our district.”

In the Village, a resolution was originally put forth, but City Manager Darwin Parks-McClary urged the council to consider an ordinance because it would provide legal protection and not just lip-service.  Much of Monday’s questions from officials centered around issues of blumz01enforcement and potential legal situations that could arise.  In the audience there seemed to be no opposition, only several people who spoke about the need for equality.

Joe Wegrzyn, owner of Anita’s Kitchen in Ferndale, spoke about the benefit of having a city that is open and welcoming.  Wegrzyn is opening his second location in Lake Orion that is expected to open late next year.  “When the topic was brought to my attention, I thought it’d be an appropriate time for us as business people to come in and give you the experience we’ve had in what I think in Southeast Michigan is the most diverse community in Oakland County and I mean Ferndale.

“For eight years since we’ve opened our doors, the diversity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations, whether employees, whether guests to the restaurant, whether they’re community leaders who come to build within our community, we enjoyed a great success… we welcome the [Lake Orion] community to extend itself to diversity.”

HowesLocationLake Orion officials voted to introduce the ordinance, with only Councilperson David Churchill voting no.  “I feel its a bit burdensome and it’s unproved,” he said.

Council President Kenneth Van Portfliet supported the ordinance.  “Our community is not very large. We do not have a large risk factor. That’s why I would support it. I’ve thought about this back and forth.   There was a young person I talked to about the ordinance issue.  They said ‘Do you discriminate based on color?’  I said ‘no.’ And he said ‘What’s the difference?”

The second reading of the ordinance will take place Sept. 12 as part of the Village Council meeting.  The Village of Holly is also considering a Human Rights Ordinance.

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