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Dearborn Heights passes Human Rights Ordinance

By |2018-01-16T03:39:35-05:00October 20th, 2005|News|

By Cornelius A. Fortune

DEARBORN HEIGHTS – A proposed community and cultural relations commission ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity was passed Oct. 11 during a Dearborn Heights City Council meeting.
The ordinance as originally written did not include transgender and other gender non-conforming people. Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for Triangle Foundation, worked closely with the council to make sure gender identity was part of the ordinance.
“We’re incredibly excited that the city of Dearborn Heights unanimously passed an ordinance and a commission that’s going to address sexual orientation and gender identity issues here in Dearborn Heights. It’s a wonderful day,” said Kosofsky.
The ordinance was met with unanimous support, though Councilwoman Margaret Van Houten, who helped to craft the measure, objected to the addition of “transgendered persons.”
“I’d like to state that the original ordinance that I recommended was based on the Michigan Constitution and the statuettes in the state of Michigan,” said Van Houten. “The language that’s been added is not my wish, but apparently the majority of the council wishes to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. If that’s the will of the council, so be it. I will vote for the ordinance, but I will like my objection noted in the minutes.”
This was followed by a lengthy discussion on what should and shouldn’t be added to the council’s minutes. Council Chair Elizabeth J. Agius brought the meeting back to order and diffused a disagreement between Councilwoman Janet Badalow and Councilwoman Van Houten.
After the meeting, Agius weighed in on the ordinance and its significance to Dearborn Heights.
“I appreciated Margie’s offering, but it doesn’t make sense not to be as inclusive and open and welcoming as we can,” she said. “I have lots of gay and lesbian friends. I couldn’t imagine not supporting this. Having the language is one thing, but that’s just language. Now we have to think about how do we act on that language in a positive way. We are a growing and diverse community. We can only do good by being as progressive on these things as possible.”
“We should be including everyone,” said Councilwoman Badalow, visibly upset by Van Houten’s comments. “If it’s a community cultural relations commission, why would you exclude a group? It’s unnecessary and it’s not how I want our community to be. I just don’t feel that excluding people is the way to go. Actually I hope that [the ordinance] might help move the state legislature to amend what they have themselves. I think there’s always room for growth.”
For Triangle, the victory was a decisive one. In a statement released Oct. 12, they applauded the new ordinance: “We are disappointed that Councilwoman Margaret Van Houten was so strident in her opposition to protections for GLBT people, but we do respect her for ultimately voting for the ordinance in solidarity with her colleagues. Everyone in Dearborn Heights should thank their city leaders for their bold actions. Triangle Foundation will continue to fight for equality for every member of our community in every part of Michigan. We leave no one behind.”

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.