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Wednesday, May 8,2013

Expanding civil rights in the capital region

Meridian, Delta and Delhi townships plan to introduce LGBT nondiscrimination policies this summer

by Sam Inglot
Meridian Township Trustee Angela Wilson speaks a press conference about expanding civil rights protections for the LGBT community. She was joined by other local and state officials.

Wednesday, May 8 — Because the Republican-controlled state Legislature doesn’t seem interested in expanding civil rights protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens, local governments are taking matters into their own hands. 


In front of the Capitol Building today, East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett, Meridian Township Trustee Angela Wilson, Delhi Township Clerk Evan Hope and Delta Township Supervisor Ken Fletcher announced plans to push for LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances in the three townships.


Under the state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, there are no protections for folks in the LGBT community. Because of this, it is legal to fire someone from a job or deny housing to someone just because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.


“I cannot believe that in 2013, right here in Meridian Township and the Capital region, it is legal to fire someone from their job just because they are gay or transgender,” Wilson said. “It isn’t right. Everyone should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our township and it’s time for us to step up and make that happen.”


East Lansing was the first city in the country to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance in 1972. The city of Lansing passed a similar ordinance in 2006. Together, the two cities offer civil rights protections to over 160,000 LGBT residents, Triplett said. If Delta, Delhi and Meridian townships pass similar nondiscrimination ordinances, that number of people protected would be roughly 250,000.


“LGBT residents deserve to be free from discrimination that state law currently permits,” Hope said. “It’s simply a matter of fairness and equality — two principles that are at the heart of our democracy. This important, common sense change doesn’t seem imminent at the state level. That’s why we must act locally.”


There is a “bigger picture” to passing nondiscrimination policies, apart from being the right thing to do, Triplett said. If Michigan wants to be competitive in the economic realm, then nondiscrimination policies — preferably at the state level, but at the local level as well —are a must, he said.


“As a state and as individual communities, we are engaged in a pitched battle to attract and retain a talented workforce,” he said. “We know that talent is concentrated and economic development occurs in vibrant, inclusive and diverse communities.”


The three township officials at today’s press conference said they were confident that they had the votes to pass nondiscrimination ordinances. They said they all plan on pushing them this summer.


Last April, Triplett and other local elected officials from Michigan convened a coalition called Local Electeds Against Discrimination (LEAD) to advocate for nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Michiganders.


Triplett said when the coalition formed in April, 18 Michigan communities had adopted nondiscrimination policies. He said that number is now at 23 “and counting.”


Thankfully, in the absence of that state leadership, local leadership and local communities have stepped up to lead,” he said.

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