By Jessica Carreras
While the LGBT community continues to celebrate the landslide victory of President-Elect Barack Obama, bad news hit the city of Hamtramck last night as the results for the human rights ordinance were released. According to city councilmember Scott Klein, 2,333 votes came in for the passage of the ordinance, while 2,903 came in against it.
The measure, if passed, would have protected against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in the areas of public services, employment and housing, among other things.
“I am enormously proud of the campaign we ran,” said Greg Manore, director of communications for Hamtramck United, the group that spearheaded the effort to pass the ordinance. “Our campaign was a truly grassroots effort: knocking on doors, listening to people’s concerns and educating folks about the need to protect the basic rights of all Hamtramckans.”
“I think we’ve got a lot to be proud of,” Klein agreed. “We ran a high road campaign. We told the truth. We talked about diversity. We talked about human rights for everyone.”
“It was very disappointing, but I don’t feel that it is over in Hamtramck,” said Michigan Equality Executive Director Derek Smiertka, who also helped with the campaign. “The team that is on the ground is fantastic. They should be applauded by the gay community for working as hard as they did.”
The ordinance was originally passed into law by the Hamtramck City Council in June. However, it was quickly challenged by Ypsilanti resident Jay McNeeley, who was backed by Gary Glenn of the American Family Association. McNeeley was able to gather enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot, resulting in yesterday’s vote.
Hamtramck United, the group that has been the driving force behind the ordinance, worked over the months leading up to today’s election to educate and sway voters.
“We’re pretty surprised,” said Manore. “We want to continue the outreach. We will continue regardless of this outcome.”
The ordinance was backed by ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Equality, the Triangle Foundation, Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski and many others.
Most, like attorney Jay Kaplan of the ACLU’s LGBT project, are still optimistic about the future of discrimination protection, both in Hamtramck and elsewhere. “The thing we need to keep in mind…is that we have more legislators both at the state level as well as the United States Congress who are LGBT friendly,” Kaplan noted. “There’s going to be opportunities for changes in laws and policies and to recognize that we should be treated equally in all different aspects of our lives. We won’t have a door automatically closed to us and that’s a great thing.”
Others, like TransGender Michigan co-founder Rachel Crandall, were simply shocked. “I’m really sad,” she commented upon first hearing the outcome. “I really feel that people who are trans deserve to be treated fairly and I’m afraid with things the way they are now, that will not happen. I think that people don’t realize the full effect of what happened.”
Still, the Hamtramck United team is optimistic. “As we move forward, we all need to be teachers,” Manore said. “We need to educate everyone, black and white, Catholic and Muslim, that human rights are truly for everyone.”
“It was because of the fear and hate…that this issue lost,” Klein said. “We’re not done. We’ll be back. We’ve got a good start and the Mayor and I are not deterred. We’re ready to go for the next round.