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Wednesday, July 3,2013

Where's Lansing Twp?

Lansing-area townships making strides to protect the LGBT community, except Lansing Township

by Sam Inglot

Three Lansing-area townships have been pushing since May for local non-discrimination policies that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. The Lansing School District is making similar moves. But one player is missing from the party: Lansing Township. 

“I wouldn’t want to be the missing piece in the puzzle,” said Penny Gardner, president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights. “We can wait, we’re patient. But I don’t know what’s going on with Lansing Township. I would hope that they would put it up on their list of priorities.”

Lansing Township Supervisor Kathleen Rodgers said the township discussed a protection policy for LGBT people in December, but there hasn’t been any discussion since then. She refused any more questions Tuesday — literally by hanging up — about where the township is at on such a policy.

When asked if the township had any plans to join the rest of the region’s townships and amend its non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation or gender identity, she said: “I haven’t discussed it with the board. We talked about it in December, but we haven’t discussed it since. We’ve had a lot of other things to deal with. I can talk to the board about it (Tuesday) at our meeting. That’s all I have to say.” She then hung up the phone. She couldn’t be reached for comment again.

“Just one more reason they need to be annexed,” Mayor Virg Bernero said last week in response to the township’s inaction.

But there does appear to be at least some support from Lansing Township trustees for such an ordinance.

During an interview in May, Lansing Township Treasurer Leo Rodgers (Kathleen Rodgers’ son) said he supported the idea of an LGBT non-discrimination policy, but that the board had discussed it very little. Lansing Township Trustee Tracie Harris also said she would support such a policy. Trustees Diontrae Hayes, William Donald and John Broughton could not be reached for comment. 

At a press conference on May 8, officials from Delhi, Delta and Meridian townships announced that they would be working on non-discrimination ordinances in their respective townships this summer as part of “One Capital Region.” Under state law, there are no protections against LGBT discrimination. One Capital Region’s aim is to combat that on a local level.

East Lansing was the first city in the country to pass such a policy in 1972. Lansing passed a similar policy in 2006.

The state’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act does not extend to the LGBT community. Because of this, it is legal to fire someone from a job or deny them housing just because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Since 2001, there have been two complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation in East Lansing, according to information compiled by East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Nathan Triplett. Attempts to get figures from Lansing were unsuccessful. 

Delta, Delhi and Meridian townships are all on pace to have LGBT non-discrimination policies by the end of the summer.

Meridian Township could vote on its reworked non-discrimination policy as early as September, Township Trustee Angela Wilson said. Delhi Township Clerk Evan Hope said he hoped to have a draft ordinance for the township board to review by its July 16 meeting. He said the board could approve the policy as early as August. Delta Township Deputy Manager Jen Roberts said the policy would likely be voted on at the board’s Aug. 19 meeting.

It’s not just local governments that are pushing for policies to protect the LGBT community. The Lansing School District is starting conversations to include non-discrimination protections for employees and students in its policies as well, said Lansing Board of Education member Peter Spadafore, who also chairs the board’s Policy Committee. 

“It’s my goal to have this in place at the beginning of the school year,” he said. “It was kind of surprising to realize it wasn’t already in the policy manual. I think you’ll find the Lansing School District is an organization of inclusion and is pretty accepting. This will just formalize it.”

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