By Caitlin M. Foyt
JACKSON, Mich. – The legal lid is set to come down on discrimination in the city of Jackson.
Volunteers met at Bella Notte Ristorante in downtown Jackson Saturday, Aug. 1 to collect as many signatures from the community as they could.
Their mission: to urge the city council to pass a civil rights ordinance that would protect all citizens from discrimination in areas of housing and employment.
“We just want to let city council know that there’s support in Jackson for the ordinance,” said Julie Nemecek, co-director of Michigan Equality, a Lansing-based statewide civil rights organization.
The ordinance protects all citizens of Jackson from being victims of housing, employment and public services discrimination because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical or mental limitation, source of income, family responsibilities or status, educational association, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status.
It uses similar language to what 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use to deal with discrimination in their places of employment, Nemecek said.
The ordinance also resembles those in place in 17 other cities in Michigan, including Grand Rapids, Detroit, Lansing and Ann Arbor.
“People will face recourse by the city if they (discriminate),” Nemecek explained. “Economically it helps, too, because a lot of companies want to be in communities where diversity is celebrated and honored.”
Utilizing Bella Notte as home base, volunteers constantly wandered in and out of the restaurant, heading to and coming from different areas of Jackson. They said they were received mostly positively by the community.
“People were getting out of their houses and the neighbors were talking to each other,” said Valerie Cochran-Toops, a volunteer and non-voting member of the Human Rights Commission.
“On the way back, all the houses that we had been at, people were still on their porches and they were talking with each other,” she said. “I think we ignited some conversation within the neighborhood.”
The council was set to vote on the civil rights ordinance at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4 at Jackson City Hall.
Look for the results of the vote and further updates on the ordinance at https://www.pridesource.com and in next week’s issue of Between The Lines.