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What’s at stake: Michigan ordinances in jeopardy

By | 2018-01-15T17:19:14-05:00 January 19th, 2012|News|

Across the state at least 1,582,000 people live in cities that are protected by local ordinances that include sexual orientation. Here is a listing of those cities and a brief description of their ordinances. For more information and to see the complete ordinance language and enforcement, go to

Ann Arbor’s human rights ordinance passed in 1999 and covers sexual orientation and gender identity. It prevents discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations and contractors with the City. Complaints can be investigated by the Human Rights Department, the city attorney can bring civil action, and violators can be sued for up to $500 plus costs. On Nov. 21, the Ann Arbor City council passed a resolution opposing HB 5039.
In Birmingham, sexual orientation is covered in City’s fair housing law. A specific procedure is outlined, giving the Human Rights Commission 30 days to investigate a complaint, then giving the accused 30 days to respond and ideally resolve the matter before taking it to court. Birmingham’s ordinance was passed in 2002.

In 2005, Dearborn Heights created a Community and Cultural Relations Committee to “increase constructive communication among residents and groups in the city across racial, religious, ethnic and socio-economic lines and between residents, groups in the city, and public officials, thereby promoting harmonious and productive relationships within the city,” with both gender identity and sexual orientation included.

Detroit’s landmark 1972 ordinance was amended in 2008 to include gender identity. It protects residents in employment, housing, public accommodations, education and medical care facilities. Complaints can be made with the Human Rights Department, which can investigate, hold hearings, issue cease and desist orders, petition the court to compel compliance with the ordinance, and ask the court to issue criminal warrants involving “grievous behavior” in violation of the ordinance.

The Village of Douglas passed their local civil rights ordinance in 1995. It includes sexual orientation and covers employment, housing and public accommodations. There is an exemption for owner-occupied one or two family dwellings. Complaints can be filed with the police who will report to the Community Relations Commission, who can hold mediation to find a resolution.

East Lansing’s 2002 ordinance covering sexual orientation applies to employment, housing, public accommodations, public services, and educational facilities. Their Human Rights Commission investigates complaints, mediates and conciliates disputes, holds hearings and issues orders, and has the right to award damages and can file criminal charges in district court for violations of cease and desist orders. East Lansing passed a resolution in Nov. opposing HB 5039.

In 2006, voters in Ferndale approved an inclusive human rights ordinance that allows for civil infractions and penalties of up to $500 for offenses. Ferndale’s City Council officially opposed HB 5039 with a resolution on Nov. 14, 2011.

Flint passed it ordinance in 1977 and amended it in 1990. The ordinance offers protection for sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations and education. Complaints may be filed with Human Relations Department, which can also request that the City’s legal department file action.

The City of Grand Ledge has a “policy” that is not legally enforceable, that includes sexual orientation as a protected class. The policy was established in the form of a resolution adopted by City Council which covers employment, housing and participation in federal, state and locally funded programs.

Grand Rapids has an Equal Employment Opportunity Office and a Community Relations Commission charged with investigating and holding public hearings on discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. This was passed in 2005.

Grand Haven’s Human Rights Commission is tasked with encouraging “equality of treatment and nondiscrimination against people of differing gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, culture, age, marital status, ability and economic circumstances.”

In 2004, Hamtramck included sexual orientation as a protected class for housing.

A Huntington Woods ordinance, passed in 2001, covers sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. A person violating the ordinance can be charged with a municipal civil infraction.

The 2009 Kalamazoo ordinance covers sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. There the City Manager may investigate complaints regarding discrimination and City Attorney has authority and discretion to file a lawsuit. On Dec. 19, 2011, the Kalamzoo City Commission passed a resolution opposing HB 5039.

Since 2006 Lansing has had an inclusive ordinance protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations and public services. Victims may file a complaint with Human Relations and Community Services Department for investigation, conducting a hearing, and making findings of fact. The department may file an action for civil infraction on basis of investigation and findings. The ordinance also specifically provides for private right of action in court. The Lansing City Council passed a resolution in opposition to HB 5039 on Oct. 24, 2011.

Saginaw’s 1984 ordinance covers sexual orientation in sale, rental, lease and financing of housing. Complaints made to the City Manager can be referred to a hearing panel. Based on the panel’s findings, the City has authority to file action for injunctive relief. The Ordinance also states that such discrimination is also considered a misdemeanor, punishable by fine not in excess of $500 and up to 90 days in jail. Individual may also bring an action in civil court for injunctive relief, actual damages, costs and attorney fees.

In 2007, Saugatuck Township passed a resolution against discrimination, with a provision making retribution optional. “Following the filing of a complaint, the township manager or township clerk shall notify in writing the person or persons subject to the complaint (respondent) of the allegations in the complaint and provide the respondent the opportunity to respond to the allegations. The respondent may admit the act of discrimination and pay the township civil infraction fine or disagree and respond in writing to the township manager or township clerk and no further township action shall be taken for that complaint.”

Traverse City (PDF) is the newest addition to the list, passing their human rights ordinance in 2010. Modeled after the Kalamazoo ordinance, it covers sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. On Jan 4, 2012 the TC City Council passed a resolution opposing HB 5039.

Ypsilanti’s 1997 ordinance allows individuals to pursue injunctive relief or action for damages. It covers sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.

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.