Twelve years later, Mich. resident aims to block gay rights law once again


Staff Reports

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — – A Royal Oak, Mich., resident says he’s submitted petitions to force a referendum on a new gay rights ordinance in the Detroit suburb.

Fred Birchard, who successfully blocked a similar measure in 2001, is leading opposition to the ordinance, and says he turned in petitions with 1,226 signatures seeking repeal of the law that Royal Oak’s City Commission approved March 4.

The law would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and public accommodations in the city of 57,000.

The ordinance was to take effect March 14, but has been on hold since Birchard submitted a petition bearing 199 signatures before it was scheduled to take effect.

“It will allow men and boys who think they are women and girls to use women’s restrooms and showers and play on girls’ sports teams,” says Birchard, 75, in an interview last month with The Daily Tribune. “That’s religious discrimination, association discrimination and a wicked policy.”

He said he wants voters to decide the issue.

“The city just shouldn’t legislate morality,” Birchard told the Detroit Free Press. “The community is furious about this whole business, particularly because they weren’t allowed to vote, but then you have the issue on top of that. Most of us don’t agree with what the City Commission did.”

Royal Oak’s City Commission passed the ordinance last month by a vote of 6-1 — twelve years after voters defeated a similar measure. Mayor Jim Ellison called it “the right time and the right place” for the measure.

If at least 746 signatures are found to be valid, the commission can decide between repealing the ordinance or sending it to a vote of the public.

Birchard led the successful 2001 campaign to block a similar law.

Emily Dievendorf, Managing Director of Equality Michigan, told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday that she “remains confident that the people of Royal Oak understand that the climate of Michigan has changed since 2001.”

“We are eager to work with community leaders in Royal Oak to educate voters on why they should affirm the work of their city officials and send a clear message that harming LGBT people will not be tolerated in communities like Royal Oak,” she said.

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