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DETROIT FREE PRESS — Ferndale could revisit gay rights proposal in spring

March 9, 2006

Detroit, Micihgan
March 9, 2006

Ferndale could revisit gay
rights proposal in spring

by Sharon Gittleman

The City of Ferndale may once again ask residents to approve an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

City Councilman Craig Covey is calling for a human rights ordinance for his community that would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on age, race, religion and sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation is the only class not widely protected by state laws.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “This is the right time to do it.” Covey said he expects to bring the issue before council sometime this spring.

“We need to stand up and be counted for all the world to see that we are on the side of truth and fairness,” Covey said. “There’s no reason to not include gay and lesbian people in Ferndale’s and Michigan’s and the United States’ civil rights laws.”

Such an effort would mark the third time Ferndale has tried to pass a human rights ordinance.

The first, proposed more than a decade ago, never made it through the council. But people who wanted the ordinance filed petitions to put the question on the ballot anyway. It failed to win voters’ support.

Proponents tried again in 1999. This time, the council approved an ordinance. But residents opposing the ordinance ran a successful petition drive to repeal the measure in 2000.

Covey hopes to replicate the success nearby Huntington Woods had when it implemented its human rights ordinance in 2001.

Huntington Woods Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Jenks said he proposed the ordinance after he heard several gay would-be house buyers were turned down when the homeowners learned of their sexual orientation.

“As a result of the city adopting the ordinance, there’s a better integration of the gay people in the community,” Jenks said.

In the five years following the approval, no charges have been brought under the ordinance, said Huntington Woods City Manager Alex Allie.

Violators face a penalty of up to $500, upon conviction.

Gary Glenn, president of the Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan, said “homosexual behavior” should not be treated as the legal equivalent of race.

“We will assist voters of Ferndale who don’t want policies of this type in their community in any way we can,” he said Tuesday.

Thom Major welcomes the proposal.

Major, 35, said he thought someone’s sexual orientation shouldn’t affect his or her right to hold a job or live in a community.

“It’s 2006. It’s America. If people are being discriminated against because of who they choose for their life partner, it’s a sad state of affairs,” Major said Tuesday. “We’d be like a bunch of Neanderthals.”

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