Holly to Vote Tuesday on Human Rights Ordinance
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 10, 2016)
Holly, MI – The Village of Holly Council is expected to vote Tuesday on adopting a human rights ordinance that would include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the list of classes that are protected under the law against unfair treatment.
Currently in Michigan it is legal to fire someone for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or otherwise gender-nonconforming. It is legal for a landlord to throw someone out if they learn they are LGBT. It is legal for stores to turn away customers because they do not want to serve people based on their sexual orientation or their gender expression. Similar practices were used historically to mistreat people of color, people with disabilities, and women. Civil rights laws eventually reduced the amount of violence, threats, harassment and challenges faced by people in those groups by affirming their right to be treated equally under the law.
Because the law cannot protect them, LGBT people face discrimination or the fear of discrimination in a way that impacts their day to day lives. Many feel they have to hide who they are because of the risk of losing their jobs, their homes, or their ability to be in public in their communities because of the practices of those who think that LGBT people deserve to be treated as less than equal human beings.
Even as same-sex couples now have the right to marry, they are still faced with the absence of legal protection that would make it safe for them to do so. The impact of dehumanization is also clear in the stories of LGBTQ youth taking their lives because of the oppression and hate they experience even in their own communities, churches that teach persecution and judgment over love, and sometimes even within their own families if they are rejected.
The State Board of Education has been instituting policies to protect youth in public schools, but these policies are separate from municipal ordinances.
Efforts towards amending the State’s Civil Rights law have been tangled up in party politics. But in recent years municipalities have been demonstrating the desire for laws that treat residents fairly by passing local nondiscrimination ordinances to fill in where the state law currently falls short.
Over 40 municipalities have enacted local human rights ordinances, including Detroit, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Huntington Woods, Lansing, Lathrup Village, Muskegon, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Southfield and Village of Lake Orion.
The ordinance does not limit the right of religious institutions to discriminate if they want to. Churches may still preach condemnation or reject people as members if they chose. They do not have to perform same sex marriages. Nor does it require any changes to bathroom policies for any school, church or business.
In addition to making the government accountable to all residents, the ordinances have an economic impact. Major corporations have inclusive nondiscrimination policies, and have been vocal about the need to locate in communities where they know their employees will be treated with respect. Globally countries with more equality do better economically. And examples of local success with inclusion are common in communities like Ferndale, Ann Arbor and Royal Oak. In Lake Orion a business owner talked about the value he has seen in his restaurants being in a welcoming community. In 2015 an LGBTQ job fair featured big names that recruit within the LGBTQ community including Ford, DTE, Comerica and Ernest and Young.
Village Council President Ryan Bladzik introduced the ordinance and a public meeting was held in August with about a dozen members of clergy speaking against the ordinance.
“I feel discrimination in any form, in any location is wrong and is harmful to our communities and society. If the State Legislature won’t act to update the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to extend protections to groups that are being discriminated against, then it’s up to us in our cities and towns and Villages to take a stand,” President Bladzik said. “I respect all of the feedback we’ve gotten on the issue. I’ve taken none of it personally—we all come from different perspectives and places, and it’s diversity of opinion that makes us a stronger community. I appreciate that peoples’ input has been mostly civil and thoughtful, and I recognize that this is the kind of issue that will take a lot of understanding and patience for people to come together on, which is why we’ve initiated this dialogue.”
The opening of the ordinance expresses its purpose with simplicity, stating “It is the intent of the Village of Holly that no person be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be denied the enjoyment of his or her civil rights or be discriminated against because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, marital status, physical or mental disability, family status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
The Council meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016 at 7pm at 920 Baird St in Holly. The public is invited to speak about the issue.
Holly to Vote Tuesday on Human Rights Ordinance