Muskegon commission passes LGBT protections into all city policies


With little fanfare and no opposition, the Muskegon City Commission added LGBT inclusive language to the city's non-discrimination policy March 12. Resident Roberta King presented her request to the commission to add the LGBT language into city policies that already protect other classes of people based on race, gender and religion among others.

After hearing from two other citizens in support of the request, commissioners briefly discussed the topic, then directed City Manager Bryon Mazade to work with the city attorney to craft the correct language for final commission approval.

"To me this is cut and dry ... we need to take action and move forward," Commissioner Larry Spataro said of the proposed LGBT inclusion. "This is not an issue. At the city, we pick the best candidate for each job and don't discriminate. There is no reason not to add this."

King, who addressed the commission on the need for such a policy, said after the meeting that she was "proud" of the city's reaction. "The commission reaction pleases me greatly," said King, who lives in the city and is the vice president of marketing and public relations for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

King made the argument to commissioners that the stated protection of the LGBT community is an economic issue as more and more companies would want such a policy in the city they do business and entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses might seek the same.

"Muskegon should be a head of the curve on this," King told commissioners, saying the first gay and lesbian rights policy enacted by a city was East Lansing 40 years ago. Today, 17 other local governments in Michigan have adopted the policy. "Muskegon needs to be on the right side of the history of this particular issue," King said.

The LGBT anti-discrimination policy was supported by two other citizens who came to the commission's work session to address the issue. "To pass this would be a good sign," said Erin Wilson of Grand Rapids, who said he grew up in Muskegon and still has strong family ties to the city. Appearing with his three small children, he said: "I have a wife so I have no skin in this game. But I'd be proud if the city approved it."

Wilson is an actor and is a leader in Until Love is Equal: Holland Is Ready, a community group formed to make the area more inclusive of LGBT people.

Mazade said that the city may include the LGBT groups into its anti-discrimination policies but there is a bill pending in the Michigan Legislature that would void such language from all local government policies. If approved by the state, such a law would nullify all LGBT inclusive city policies.

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