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DAILY TRIBUNE — Gay rights ordinance battle begins in Ferndale

October 9, 2006

“(Tom Gagne, president of the Ferndale Area Republicans) said he has spoken with Gary Glenn, head of the Christian conservative American Family Association of Michigan. The AFA spent about $5,000 to defeat the gay rights ordinance in Ferndale in 2000, and Glenn told the Daily Tribune recently his group will help fund efforts against the measure this November. The AFA has opposed a number of similar ordinances in Michigan over the last several years. …Openly gay Councilman Craig Covey introduced the proposed gay rights ordinance at a council meeting earlier this year. …Covey believes efforts by the AFA, which is part of a similarly named nationwide parent group, was instrumental in defeating Ferndale’s proposed gay rights measure in 2000.”

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DAILY TRIBUNE
Royal Oak, Michigan
October 1, 2006

Gay rights ordinance battle begins in Ferndale
Opposing sides organizing for November showdown.
by Michael P. McConnell
Daily Tribune Staff Writer

FERNDALE — Supporters of a proposed gay rights ordinance are organizing to pass the measure in November, but at least one opponent will lead an effort to defeat it.

A group called Ferndale Alliance Valuing Our Residents has gathered endorsements from all members of the City Council, State Rep. Andy Meisner (D-Ferndale), U.S. Congressman Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), County Commissioner Dave Coulter (D-Ferndale) and others to pass the measure.

“We’ll be doing campaign literature, going house to house, making phone calls to voters and have people at the polls on Election Day,” said Ann Heler, co-chair of FAVOR.

Heler estimated her group will spend up to $8,000 on its campaign to support the “Human Rights Ordinance” ballot question.

“This ordinance is the final thing we need to put in place to ensure the diversity we currently practice in Ferndale,” she said.

The measure makes it a civil infraction carrying up to a $500 fine to discriminate against anyone based on their sexual orientation in access to public services, housing and employment.

Voters rejected a similar ordinance in 1991, and again in 2000, when it lost by 117 votes.

“I’m against it,” said Tom Gagne, president of the Ferndale Area Republicans, a group of about 40 affiliated members. “They are trying to make the city a gay magnet of the Midwest, and I don’t think that is what Ferndale needs.”

Gagne said that while he opposes the ordinance, he is unsure at this point whether the Ferndale Area Republicans as a group will oppose it. Gagne said the Ferndale Republicans on Tuesday will hear from Fred Birchard, a Royal Oak resident who successfully campaigned against a proposed gay rights ordinance in that city in May 2001.

“After our meeting on Tuesday I’ll ask for a show of hands from those who wish to participate in an effort to defeat the gay rights ordinance,” Gagne said. “The ordinance isn’t necessary. There have been no complaints to the city about gay rights being violated. They have gay parades here, and open businesses, and they have no problems.”

Heler, who recently headed the now-disbanded gay community group called Friends and Neighbors of Ferndale, said the group tracked hate crimes against gays, lesbians, transgendered persons and bisexuals.

“At one point in the late ’90s we had death threats with the police driving by one woman’s house every 15 minutes,” Heler said. “There were hate messages written on stickers and reports of malicious destruction of property.”

Still, Heler acknowledged there have been no reports of hate crimes in the past three years, one of the key reasons the Friends and Neighbors group disbanded.

Gagne said he has spoken with Gary Glenn, head of the Christian conservative American Family Association of Michigan.

The AFA spent about $5,000 to defeat the gay rights ordinance in Ferndale in 2000, and Glenn told the Daily Tribune recently his group will help fund efforts against the measure this November. The AFA has opposed a number of similar ordinances in Michigan over the last several years.

However, many cities statewide such as Birmingham, Oak Park, Huntington Woods, Livonia, Detroit, Traverse City, Saginaw and Grand Rapids have gay rights ordinances or policies that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Openly gay Councilman Craig Covey introduced the proposed gay rights ordinance at a council meeting earlier this year. In June, the City Council voted to put it on the ballot, with all council members supporting it.

Covey believes efforts by the AFA, which is part of a similarly named nationwide parent group, was instrumental in defeating Ferndale’s proposed gay rights measure in 2000.

“I think the ordinance has a better chance this time, and I predict it will pass,” Covey said. “Ferndale is a much different city than in the past. We have made huge strides in redevelopment and progress.

Ferndale has put itself on the map as a shining example of what a progressive city can do with a diverse populace. This human rights ordinance is a good example of what we need to do to attract and keep the best and the brightest.”

It is estimated that up to 15 percent of Ferndale’s roughly 20,000 residents are gay, according to Covey.

Gagne believes that the city’s high profile as a gay-friendly community hurts the city when it comes to attracting families to live here.

“This gay ordinance is not the kind of thing that attracts families,” he said. “We have fewer kids; our schools are crumbling as the kids move out to other schools,” he said. “This ordinance is not going to do one thing to make the city safer, attract families, increase our population or help our schools.”

http://www.dailytribune.com/stories/100106/loc_20061001003.shtml

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