News (USA)

Human rights ordinance on hold in Royal Oak, Mich., as opponents seek voter approval

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — A suburban Detroit community’s human rights ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and a number of other factors has been placed on hold as opponents seek to put the issue before voters.


Royal Oak’s City Commission passed the ordinance earlier this month, about 12 years after voters defeated a similar measure. It covers housing, employment and public accommodations, and Mayor Jim Ellison called it “the right time and the right place” for the measure.

The ordinance was to take effect Thursday, but opponents turned in enough signatures to block it for at least the next few weeks. They want voters to decide the issue, and have until April 3 to collect 746 signatures to have the City Commission set an election date.

“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,” resident Fred Birchard, 75, who i s leading opposition to the ordinance, told The Daily Tribune. “That’s religious discrimination, association discrimination and a wicked policy.”

Birchard said the ordinance “is even worse” than the 2001 proposal he worked to defeat.

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City Commissioner Jim Rasor, an attorney, said Birchard is trying to scare residents into overturning the ordinance.

“What he is saying is untrue. It won’t happen,” Rasor said. “That’s a scary talking point commonly used by a small group of people who want to continue to hate and discriminate.”

Supporters of the ordinance held a rally Thursday at the post office to launch a “Decline to Sign” campaign, the Detroit Free Press and reported.

The ordinance would make it illegal in Royal Oak to discriminate based on 16 factors, including age, height, weight, condition of pregnancy, gender identity and HIV status. Violations of the ordinance would be a civil infraction punishable by a fine up to $500.

A number of other Michigan communities have similar protections.

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