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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]


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Wyandotte witness to birth of latest accidental activist

By |2018-01-15T21:03:09-05:00January 24th, 2007|News|

Following the latest denial to her parking permit appeal, Janet Law has announced plans to take the city of Wyandotte to court over the right to open a private club for transgenders in the quiet Downriver community.
Law has owned National Engine Machine, a popular speed shop on Fort Street, for nearly 30 years. Three years ago she opened a clothing boutique and cosmetic transformation center for cross-dressers and trans women, Janet’s Closet, out of the same location. But it wasn’t until she announced plans to open a private club for her clientele that chaos reigned down upon her.
Conservative citizens have launched a campaign of misinformation designed to misinterpret Law’s intentions and the purpose of the club. Law said that Janet’s Place is designed to be “a members only club to provide a place for trans people to meet, hold support meetings and seminars and socialize in a safe, relaxed and discrete environment.” The club will be strictly for the trans community and not even friends or admirers will be allowed to join or attend functions. But in e-mails and complaints sent to city officials, residents have alleged that Law plans to build an entire gay community in the area.
Perhaps in fear of such a plot, or just the result of plain ‘ol anti-trans bias, the mayor and city commission are halting plans for the club – and denying Law a certificate of occupancy – on a zoning ordinance technicality. Specifically, the commission is asserting that Law’s parking lot does not have enough spaces to service three businesses. Law claims that the fact that the hours of operation do not overlap – both the speed shop and boutique will be closed during the hours that the club is open – qualifies her for a variance.
After having her request for such repeatedly denied, and following her final appeal, Law has announced her intention to file suit against the city. Attorneys for Law say the city is misinterpreting their own zoning codes, which state that parking requirements are to be determined at the “time of erection” of any structure or, in short order, when it’s built. Law’s building was constructed in 1954, long before current parking requirements – which Law says were revised even further in the last year in response to her permit applications – were enacted.
As such, because Law’s building is approximately 15,000 square feet and has only 26 parking spaces, and with the most liberal parking density requirement in the city calling for one spot for every 400 square feet, according to the current code, Law would not be able to make “full economic use” of her entire property. This, Law said, creates an undue hardship upon her.
“The City of Wyandotte restricting me from using my property is a regulatory taking of the property,” she said. “In other words, through new regulations they’re denying me use of my property, which is illegal and unconstitutional and puts them at great risk. In almost in every such case brought to litigation, the plaintiff has prevailed. There is case law after case law after case law in support of me, so the city will lose.”
Further, Law said she has proof that the city is treating her case differently than others and is acting out of fear and intolerance.
“Through the Freedom of Information Act, I requested all prior cases in the city that were heard before the Zoning Board of Appeals that related to parking. They gave me 24 cases, of which 23 were successfully appealed and one was withdrawn. So they had a record of 100 percent approval for variance requests before me.”
Law, therefore, said her suit will be filed in federal court.
“We plan on bringing a consequential damages suit against the city, relating to the embarrassment and humiliation and personal duress that I have had to undergo dealing with all of this – the hatred and bias brought on by city officials. I have friends inside the walls of the city government who have remained anonymous throughout this entire ordeal and acted as informants. They will testify in court about what’s been done and said about me behind closed doors. I’m not without witnesses.”
Law said she has no question she is the victim of anti-trans prejudice, which only serves to illustrate the need for her club and inspires to keep fighting to the bitter end.
“I’ve always been the kind of person that you can’t take anything from me,” she said. “I’m just not a lay down person. I’m a fighter. I’m a stepper. I don’t stop. I’m a pit bull.”
The treatment she has received during this process, Law said, has opened her eyes to the discrimination trans people face everyday.
“Dealing with this hate for two years, people coming to these public hearings and speaking into the microphone, standing next to me and saying hateful and untrue things about me while never having met me … I will not stop. Period.
“I feel like a civil rights leader,” Law continued. “I’m going to sit in the front of the bus. That’s it. I’m determined to change the laws in the State of Michigan for transgender people, and the City of Wyandotte has given me the determination to do it. They deserve what’s going to happen to them.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.