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City supports expansion of anti-discrimination law

August 20, 2014

EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe City Council approved sending a resolution to Lansing Aug. 12 calling on the Legislature and governor to expand the state’s anti-discrimination law to include gay, bisexual and transgender residents.

Councilman Ron LaForest introduced the resolution, saying that the state’s current anti-discrimination law covers race, gender, religion, age, height, national origin, weight, familial status and marital status. It does not, however, cover sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.

“I have often said I don’t feel this is a moral or religious fight,” LaForest said. “This is strictly a human rights fight to ensure that all of our residents in the city of Eastpointe are equally protected.”

The council approved the measure 4-1, with Mayor Suzanne Pixley providing the no vote. She said she agreed with the idea behind the resolution but did not think it was worth sending one.

“I am so tired of everyone laughing at our city from the number of resolutions we send,” Pixley said. “If you want to do something, you can just as easily write letters to the governor (and legislators). I feel like this resolution speaks for the entire city, and I don’t think we can do that.”

Councilwoman Wendy Richardson said she preferred doing a resolution rather than passing a city ordinance like communities such as Shelby Township have, because she felt that it was a state issue and did not want to deal with an ordinance getting overruled whenever the state does take it up.

“This is really in their purview, and that’s really what this says,” she said. “It says it is the job of the state to look at this issue and resolve it.”

While the council was positive on the resolution, some local residents spoke out against it during the public comment portion of the meeting. Resident Kevin Grand said he could not find any evidence of discrimination within Eastpointe on any of those factors and dismissed the campaign as an effort by the Democratic Party to garner more votes.

“What you are considering directly advocates the denial of individuals’ freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly,” Grand said. “What about the Boy Scouts, Catholic charities, small businesses that are faith-based, or churches where tenants of faith conflict with sexual orientation? Should those religious or free speech rights be nullified by states?”

LaForest argued that the founders of the U.S. realized that every religion had its own set of taboos and that the country’s own laws needed to be secular to prevent any one from getting a legal upper hand. Furthermore, he said every law-abiding taxpayer deserved equal protection under the law, even if there were no reports of discrimination in the city.

“Certainly that may be the case; that may not be the case,” LaForest said. “But my opinion is, why put the smoke detector up after the fire has already happened? Much like with bullying, no one is going to make a report if we fail to provide equal protection for them, as well.”

Another resident, Phyllis Maenza, blasted the council, calling the resolution a slap in the face to “real discrimination,” which she said is based on factors like skin color, height and weight.

“It’s a choice, a lifestyle choice, and it’s going to get thrown into the discrimination pile because you have a lifestyle I’m not in favor of,” Maenza said.

Resident Harvey Curley said he did not want to get involved in the debate, but nevertheless said homosexuality or being transgender were not choices and that the resolution was exactly what it said at face value: that everyone deserved to be treated equally, regardless of all other factors.

Gov. Rick Snyder said in May that he believes it is an issue the Legislature should address after it returns from its summer break.

About the author

Staff Writer Kevin Bunch covers the communities of Eastpointe and Roseville, as well as Roseville Community Schools and East Detroit Public Schools. He has worked at C&G Newspapers since 2013, and is a graduate of Wayne State University and Henry Ford Community College. Kevin is also a 2015 Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting alumni.

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