BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
FERNDALE – On Nov. 7, Ferndale hopes to make it official.
Discrimination against the LGBT community or others will not be tolerated.
Residents who come to the polls will see this potential ordinance on their ballots:
No person or persons shall discriminate against any person or persons within the City of Ferndale regarding employment, housing, public accommodations and public services on the basis of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, age, height or weight, marital status, sexual orientation, familial status, national origin, or physical or mental disability.
The law provides enforcement exceptions, including religious or same-sex schools and senior housing.
Violators would face a $500 fine.
Ferndale City Councilmember Craig Covey is optimistic voters will approve the ordinance, though he said no one should assume it will pass.
“To date, there has been no organized opposition,” he said. “Every single person who cares needs to get out and vote.”
This won’t be the first time a human rights ordinance appeared on the Ferndale ballot. In 2000, the measure failed by just 117 votes of the 3,300 ballots cast.
There’s a difference this time around, Covey said.
“I asked the question at the council to the public whether they think Ferndale is better off then it was 15 years ago,” he said. “If they believe it is, I suggested a ‘yes’ vote on the human rights ordinance as a way of thanking all the gay and lesbian residents and the young couples that have moved into town in the last decade and opened businesses and refurbished their homes.”
Covey said his city isn’t going to change if the ordinance passes, since it’s already a community that values its diversity.
Then why push for a human rights law?
“A huge burden will be lifted off many of us,” he said. “The ordinance makes it official and publicly puts Ferndale in the column that supports equal rights for all of its citizens.”
LGBT residents laid the foundation for their neighbors’ acceptance of them, by volunteering in their community, serving on local boards and commissions and helping Ferndale in whatever way they could, said Ann Heler, co-chair of FAVOR, a group working to pass the measure.
“People figured out we had a lot more in common with them,” she said. “Many communities started out with an ordinance and then got diversity. We started out with diversity and will end with an ordinance.”
The November election may not be the last battle for LGBT rights.
Similar ordinances may crop up in other cities, proponents said.
“We’re laying the foundation of doing this in two, three or four years,” said attorney and Royal Oak resident Jim Rasor. “We need people to know we’re not the devil.”
Covey said he thought passage of the ordinance in his hometown would inspire other communities to follow its example.
“Ferndale is the mouse that’s roared,” he said.
For more information about the proposed ordinance, visit http://www.ferndalefavor.com on the Internet.