“According to AFA-Michigan President Gary Glenn…’We’re confident one of two things will happen in early 2006. Four members of the city council, once they realize the threat this discriminatory language poses to the citizens of Dearborn Heights, will vote to remove it from city ordinances, or…city residents will launch a petition drive to place the issue on the ballot to let the people decide.’ …Glenn…said that fostering hatred and intolerance are not, and have never been, a part of the AFA-Michigan agenda. ‘The Triangle Foundation throws its malicious “hate” label at anyone who disagrees with their special interest political agenda Ã¢â‚¬â€ the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, even the 60 percent of Dearborn Heights’ voters who supported the Marriage Protection Amendment Ã¢â‚¬â€ so we’re in good company,’ Glenn said.”
PRESS & GUIDE
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
November 27, 2005
Rally supports Heights’ anti-discrimination rules
by Sean Delaney
DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. — Members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community came out Monday night to show their support for the city’s Community and Cultural Relations ordinance Ã¢â‚¬â€ as well as the sexual orientation and gender identity language it includes Ã¢â‚¬â€ during a special Town Hall meeting held at the Canfield Community Center.
“I came here to listen, to learn, and maybe express an opinion of my own,” said Canton resident Wayne Wolfson, who attended Monday’s meeting.
The Detroit-based Triangle Foundation, Michigan’s largest organization representing members of the GLBT community, hosted the meeting as part of an effort to show the GLBT community’s support for the sexual orientation and gender identity or expression amendments that were added to the ordinance in a 6-1 vote by the City Council in October Ã¢â‚¬â€ after the ordinance itself was passed in a unanimous decision.
“We now have 12 cities in the state of Michigan that have banned anti-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender discrimination,” said Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for the Triangle Foundation. “Michigan has led the way.”
According to Council member Margaret Van Houten, who drafted the original ordinance but voted against the inclusion of the sexual orientation and gender identity or expression language, the original purpose of the ordinance was to help foster communication and education between different groups in the city.
Councilwoman Janet Badalow, following several discussions with Council members and other city officials, suggested the amendments to the original ordinance.
However, while the language was eventually included as part of the ordinance, Kosofsky said that the ordinance does not go as far as it could toward preventing hatred and discrimination.
“We were under the impression that the ordinance went farther than it actually does and that the ordinance would actually ban discrimination in the city,” he said. “It turns out…it’s not a fully strong ordinance that would ban discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations or public services.”
The commission also has no enforcement power and will serve in advisory role, Kosofsky said.
Since it was passed in October, the gay rights language has also come under fire from several organizations, including the American Family Association of Michigan, an organization that strongly opposes abortion and homosexuality.
According to AFA-Michigan President Gary Glenn, the organization does not oppose any particular individuals or organizations, only certain policies such as the amendments to the Dearborn Heights ordinance.
“We’re confident one of two things will happen in early 2006,” Glenn said. “Four members of the City Council, once they realize the threat this discriminatory language poses to the citizens of Dearborn Heights, will vote to remove it from city ordinances, or, failing, that, city residents will launch a petition drive to place the issue on the ballot to let the people decide.”
Glenn said that the AFA-Michigan would be working with those Dearborn Heights residents that oppose the amendments by supporting them in their efforts to gather enough signatures to have the issue placed on a ballot.
Only registered voters in Dearborn Heights are allowed to legally circulate the petitions, Glenn said.
However, Kosofsky said that Glenn’s actions could end up stirring up feelings of intolerance and hate in the city that exist beneath the surface.
“The motivating factor of people like Gary Glenn to do something like this is to distract the gay community and divide the different minority sects,” he said.
Glenn, however, said that fostering hatred and intolerance are not, and have never been, a part of the AFA-Michigan agenda.
“The Triangle Foundation throws its malicious ‘hate’ label at anyone who disagrees with their special interest political agenda Ã¢â‚¬â€ the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, even the 60 percent of Dearborn Heights’ voters who supported the Marriage Protection Amendment Ã¢â‚¬â€ so we’re in good company,” Glenn said.
About 30 residents from Dearborn Heights and neighboring communities attended the meeting Monday night, and many said they walked away with a better understanding of the ordinance and are prepared to fight to keep it.
“I think that if we have an opportunity to do something permanent that is going to change things, then I think we have a responsibility as adults to do something for the next generation,” said LaMarr Fields, an openly gay Dearborn Heights resident who recently directed “The Laramie Project” at the Berwyn Senior Center.
“Whoever you are Ã¢â‚¬â€ gay or straight Ã¢â‚¬â€ you have to find your own way to let your little light shine.”