Monday, April 7, 2014

Saginaw, Michigan looks at passing LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance

STAFF REPORTS | SAGINAW -- A proposed ordinance that would protect city LGBT residents and visitors providing equal treatment in employment and public accommodations, will be introduced before the Saginaw City Council Monday. But due to a city charter provision, cannot be considered for approval until the City Council's second meeting later this month.
The ordinance would "ban discrimination against someone based on that person's "actual or perceived sex, sexual orientation or gender identity." Violations of the ordinance would be considered civil infractions and violators could face a fine of up to $500.
"When I found out that the city did not have an ordinance in place protecting the LGBT community when it came to public accommodation and employment, I thought it was something very obvious that needed to change," Saginaw City Councilwoman Annie Boensch, the measure's sponsor told Michigan media outlet MLive
The proposed measure has already come under fire from conservative groups including the American Family Association of Michigan, which has opposed allowing same-sex marriage in the state along with anti-discrimination ordinances in other Michigan communities, that would protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in jobs, housing and public accommodations.
"We consider these ordinances to be, themselves, discriminatory," AFA-MI president Gary Glenn said."It's a discriminatory solution in response to a nonexistent problem." Glenn added that there are dozens of examples of how such an ordinance could harm people. 
"We would, of course, encourage the Saginaw City Council to do as the Bay County Commission did, and that is to defeat this discriminatory ordinance that threatens to punish and penalize people on the basis of their moral and religious values and opposition to homosexual activity and the political agenda that promotes it," he said.
Councilwoman Boensch noted that her proposal defers from Glenn's cited example. The Bay County proposal, defeated narrowly in a 4-3 vote, sought to ban any discriminatory practices in county employment and contract practices. Saginaw's ordinance would be much more inclusive applying to any businesses or organizations providing employment or "public accommodations" within Saginaw city limits. "This is not what Bay County was looking at," she said. "This is citywide." 
The city's mayor and city council are open to discussion and willing to consider the ordinance.
"I think we need to introduce it before we discuss it in depth," Mayor Dennis Browning said. "I'm open-minded and am certainly willing to have some debate on it." 
Browning said his two areas of concern deal with enforcement and what impacts, positive or negative, passing it might have on the city government and Saginaw's citizens. "My questions are who is going to enforce it and what will it cost the community," he said. "Those are things we need to discuss."