LANSING STATE JOURNAL: Lansing Residents Voice Opinions on "Gay Rights" Ordinance

Lansing, Michigan – November 21, 2006

Rights proposal draws a crowd
Passions intense as council hears from both sides
By Tom Lambert

Nearly 200 people packed Lansing’s City Council chambers Monday night to voice their opinions about the city’s controversial human rights proposal. People on both sides of the issue spoke passionately about the ramifications of the ordinance. The eight-member council is expected to pass it unanimously Dec. 11. The measure would, among other things, prohibit harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and student and marital status. Robert Riley, 73, said he stood against the proposal because homosexuals were “sick people” who didn’t deserve “special treatment.”

“What they need is help from a psychiatrist,” said Riley of Lansing. “If this passes, I might have to move.”

Maggie Lowden, a junior at Holt High School, said she was for the ordinance as she pointed out the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. “It says ‘liberty and justice for all,’ ” she said. “If we want to change it, we should add the footnote ‘as long as we declare them acceptable.'” Some of the characteristics included in the proposal are protected under state and/or federal law; others are not.

Most in favor
The measure is similar to one passed by the City Council in 1996 that later was voted down by residents. On Monday, though, most residents spoke in favor of the ordinance. If the proposal passes this time around, people would report violations to the city’s Department of Human Relations and Community Services. The department then would try to mediate the situation if discrimination was found to have occurred.

If an agreement can’t be reached, the department could forward the case to the City Attorney’s Office. Mayor Virg Bernero said at Monday night’s council meeting that he fully supports the proposal. Outside City Hall just before the meeting, a group of about 20 college students protested against the measure. “It’s a slap in the face,” said Kyle Bristow, a Michigan State University student and a member of the group Young Americans for Freedom, a nonpartisan activist group.

“We don’t think that people should get special rights – nobody should be treated different.”

Similar ordinances
Derek Smiertka, executive director for Michigan Equality, said the city should have had a human rights ordinance years ago. He said there are similar ordinances in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, Kalamazoo and East Lansing.
“It makes no sense that Lansing doesn’t have any protections for any civil rights or human rights to protect its citizens,” he said.
“This isn’t just a gay issue – it’s a rights issue, and it covers everybody.”

You can read the Lansing State Journal article here.

(AFA-MI note: Homosexual activist Derek Smiertka, quoted above, was political director of the Oakland County Republican Party under former county GOP chairman L. Brooks Patterson:

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