By Georgia Thelen
Review Staff Writer
The Village of Lake Orion met September 26 to vote on a Human Rights Ordinance regarding basic protected rights for the LGBTQ community.
The village council passed a first reading of the ordinance in August. The ordinance would provide basic human rights such as the rights included in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act has been in place in Michigan since 1976. Elliott-Larsen prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status in employment, housing, education, and access to public accommodations. Community members believe that a civil rights act such as Elliott-Larsen should include accommodations for the LGBTQ community as well.
“This is really an anti-discrimination ordinance… it’s necessary because the LGBT population is a minority and they suffer extreme discrimination in Michigan because we have no protection from discrimination for them,” said Lisa Goyette, leader of the anti-discrimination movement in Lake Orion.
The legislative office in Lansing will not entertain the idea of addressing this on a statewide level, Goyette said, so citizens are getting frustrated and going before their local officials to do what they can in their own towns. Getting ordinances in place in villages, townships and cities has proven for many that it is quicker and easier than pursuing legislature in Lansing.
“Michigan has been on the wrong side of history for many years… To think that discrimination does not happen in all communities is unrealistic,” said Goyette. “The only way to say we acknowledge that is to pass something like this. If a community says no to an anti- discrimination ordinance, they are saying yes it’s okay to discriminate.”
As Goyette walked to the podium to share her public comments, the opposing side rang out in a string of “boo’s” and “amen’s.”
Dave Archer of Lake Orion shared his viewpoints and argued that human beings are imperfect, but no one should need legislature to get respect, human beings should inherently know how to respect all kinds of people. No one appeared to want to participate in a good vs. evil or nature vs. nurture argument with him.
The only way to acknowledge that discrimination is happening in local communities, and that community members do not want it allowed, is to pass an ordinance like the one approved in Lake Orion, Goyette said.
Pastor Jeff Walters of Grace Baptist Church shared his views on transgender citizens and how he was relieved to know that when he had his children they came out as boys or girls, there was no question about ‘well hopefully we’ll find out in a little while what they feel like’.
“My daughters are afraid that someone might be in (the bathroom) who ‘feels’ like a woman that day and I have to tell them to go in and if they see something yell out to me,” said Walters, “Don’t forget who is in charge in our country; it’s God. He’s the leader.”
Pastor Walter’s comments left Council President, Kenneth Van Portfliet feeling the need to clarify exactly what this ordinance was covering — and it’s not diverse looking humans in a public restroom.
“Just for clarification, myself and other council members have been approached about identity in bathrooms and that is not included in this ordinance,” said Van Portfliet.
The LGBTQ supporters exploded in cheers, tired of hearing about the transgender bathroom boycott that originated with Target in early May.
Lake Orion Village Attorney Mary Kucharek, went on to clarify that the proposed ordinance covers everything included in Elliott Larson, as well as gender identity and sexual orientation, but does not include any happenings in lavatories and locker rooms.
Lake Orion resident Alexander Kelly cleared the air by sharing his personal accounts.
“I’m hearing a lot tonight about these transgender people. We don’t know who they are… Here I am as a transgender man. For those of you who don’t understand that, it means I was assigned as a female at birth and I now live my life as a man,” said Kelly. “So this is the face that you’d be putting in your daughter’s restroom.”
Kelly continued to express that he wants to feel safe in the community he was raised in and wants to work – without any handouts.
He then explained the process of applying for jobs that require background checks, and in turn, putting every other name you’ve used in your lifetime- including the name of the opposite gender than transgender people were assigned at birth- and being turned away because of your sexual identity.
The Village Council took a final vote on the ordinance and passed it 4-3 with members Churchill, Hobbs and Ranville opposing.
There are currently over 40 similar ordinances in place across the state of Michigan that protect over 2 million LGBTQ citizens.
By Georgia Thelen