2017-03-16 / News

LGBTQ individuals may have better-protected rights in future

BY TANYA TERRY
810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

BURTON — There may be a new ordinance protecting rights of those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community in Burton.

Council Vice President Duane Haskins said he would take the matter before the city’s legislative committee, as the council’s legislative chair, after five people requested it be considered at the last city council meeting.

“We would like equal rights for all creatures created by God,” said Megan Johnson, who is a member of Equality Caucus, at the March 6 city council meeting. “I’m not solely, wholly biologically male, nor fully, wholly biologically female.”

Johnson said she was raised as a biological male. However, it was determined she was more biologically female than she was male, and her sex was legally changed through surgery. She is now legally female, as stated on her birth certificate.

“My perception is that the neighborhood stray cat has more rights right now than I do,” Johnson said. “It’s against the law to be cruel to animals. I’m a creature of God. I deserve equal rights. I did not choose to be what I am. I simply am what I am.”

The Equality Caucus is known as an organization that brings visibility to LGBTQ issues by influencing policy, supporting LGBTQ issues by influencing policy, supporting LGBTQ friendly leaders and educating the community within Genesee County.

Reverend Dan Scheid of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church spoke in favor of a proposed ordinance protecting the rights of LGBTQ individuals, saying he believed religion ought not dictate public policy. However, he said religion influences public policy and it should claim its rightful place in civic life. He referred to himself as an ally of the Equality Caucus of Genesee County and said he was one member, Genevieve Field’s, pastor, who is a resident of Burton.

“My faith reminds me that our common humanity is made in the image and likeness of God,” Scheid said. “It compels me to respect the dignity of every human being.”

He said the episcopal church is at the forefront of welcoming, affirming and including LGBTQ people in the full life and ministry of the church. He also said his citizenship in the country compelled him to work for justice, equity and civil rights for all.

Field, who is a member at large and chair of the policy committee of Equality Caucus, said there were currently no federal protections in place to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Michigan Civil Rights Acts does not offer these protections either.

Due to the lack of these protections on the federal and state level, more than 30 municipalities in the state of Michigan have adopted ordinances to protect the LGBTQ community. These communities include Flint, Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing.

There were 5,818 single-bias hate crime incidents involving 7,121 victims in 2015, according to an FBI website. Over 17 percent were victimized because of the offenders’ sexual-orientation bias, it says.

“LGBTQ people can be fired from their jobs, denied housing and denied public accommodations simply for being who they are and loving who they love,” Field said.

Field presented a model template non-discrimination ordinance to the council members, prepared by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. The Michigan Civil Rights Commission says communities can use it when drafting their own ordinances to protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) website.

Ruba Mohamed, who said she lives in an affluent community in Flint Township and has a circle of friends who support businesses that respect the rights of all, said if the proposed LGBTQ protection ordinance was passed, she would be more likely to spend money in Burton.

The founder and chairperson of the Equality Caucus, Nicole Derusha- Mackey, who is a former resident of Burton, also urged the council to consider the proposed ordinance.

City Attorney Amanda Doyle received an emailed copy of proposed ordinance template, which she said could be tailored to meet the city’s needs.

“This would be a start,” Doyle said. She confirmed there are no federal or state protections for LGBTQ individuals. She said Jennifer Granholm issued an order barring discrimination based on gender identity or expression in 2007, but it only applied to state employees. “Legally speaking, I don’t know what I could point to that would be against this.”

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