TROY, Mich. — In a city council meeting that stretched five hours until nearly 1 a.m. Tuesday, residents of Troy, Mich. blasted mayor Janice Daniels over comments she posted to Facebook last June about gay marriage, which included a gay slur.
The overflow crowd packed both council chambers and the adjacent meeting room with dozens of citizens lined up for public comment. Speaker after speaker took Daniels to task, while residents outside protested and called for her resignation.
The controversy stems from a June 25 Facebook post unearthed last week by the blog “Keep Troy Strong” — in the post, Daniels wrote: “I think I am going to throw away my ‘I Love New York’ carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”
“How can any citizen of Troy ever look at this mayor the same way?” asked resident Jeff Williams.
Williams, 26, went on to address the mayor directly, telling her “You don’t represent my values. I’m ashamed to have you represent the city.”
Earlier, as Daniels entered the Troy municipal building, a crowd of about 40 persons chanted for her removal.
The mayor paused and lectured the crowd on the meaning of forgiveness by saying, “True forgiveness means that you wipe the slate clean and allow the person to improve themselves from that point forward, so this is a very good lesson for all of us!”
After numerous persons pointed out that her demeanor appeared to indicate she wasn’t truly sorry for her actions, the mayor responded with, “I’m a good person, I really am. I said one word that you don’t like. One word.”
After the Facebook post became public, Daniels told MLive.com, “I may have said something like that … I probably shouldn’t have used that kind of language, but I do believe marriage should be between one man and one woman.”
Daniels added that while she’s opposed to gay marriage, and has moral issues with homosexuality, she doesn’t hate gay people.
“I love all people. I am human. That was probably a poor choice of words.”
Before the public comment session began, Daniels reiterated her apology, calling the incident “a poor choice of words.”
But several residents told her that apology was insufficient and insincere.
One of the mayor’s colleagues, City Councilman Dane Slater, said, “I’m gonna be the first to let you know that you are not the victim here. You sent me a memo apologizing but it gave me the sense that you think you’re the victim here, and you are not the victim. The city is the victim.”
Denise Brogan-Kator, the executive director of Equality Michigan, said in an open letter published in Troy Patch.com prior to the city council meeting:
When I saw that Troy Mayor Janice Daniels had posted on her Facebook page this summer that she was going to throw away her I Love NY bag “now that queers can get married there,” I was shocked and offended. Her choice of the slur “queers” was evidence that a person who is now an elected official harbors deep animosity toward the gay community, and had no qualms posting about it.
She may not have been mayor at the time, but I doubt that winning the election has done anything other than reinforce her obvious belief that she is better than the people she serves.
Now, having heard her excuse, I am even more deeply concerned, because it is a familiar and dangerous one. Ms. Daniels claims she was “expressing her personal belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.” Meaning, it is okay to degrade and dehumanize people if you are doing it based on a sincerely held moral conviction.
Does that sound familiar to you, too? Just a month ago, our state senate tried to protect school bullies based on the same justification. They passed a bill that exempted not just students, but also school employees and others, from any responsibility for bullying if it was based on a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” It was, in essence, a license to bully. It was a national embarrassment and a shameful day for our state.
And now Ms. Daniels has shamed the City of Troy by attempting to hide behind the same excuse.
Michael Gregor, Director of Communications for Equality Michigan, told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday, “This is an example of people holding their elected officials accountable and also making a statement that homophobia, particularly by those same officials is completely unacceptable.”
Gregor said that his organization is frustrated with the mayor’s lukewarm apology and seemingly insincere efforts, and hopes she will take a lead role in passage of an anti-discrimination bill to help protect Troy’s LGBTQ citizens as a means to affirm her support for equality for all of Troy’s citizens.
Daniels said she has no intention of resigning.