Marie Reimers, a sophomore at Central Michigan University was one of dozens of people who came to the Mt. Pleasant City Commission meeting on July 9 to see the passing of the City’s inclusive human rights ordinance. The ordinance prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and accommodations against people based on many factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Mt. Pleasant is now the 19th in the state to pass such an ordinance.
“It seems like this is just going to protect LGBT individuals and others from housing discrimination and discrimination in restaurants and stores. It is going to do those things,” Reimers said. “But it is also going to do so much more than that.
“Last year my best friend” he gave me permission to share this story with you ” he attempted suicide because he was gay. And he had a very supportive family, very supportive friends, very supportive community. But it was the outside society that made him do it.
“He said he kept seeing these discrimination ordinances that weren’t getting passed. He kept seeing that people who were standing up, running for President, and saying terrible things about who he was. And that’s what killed him inside.
“So seeing that the City Council and that this city supports the individuals who are LGBT means so much to my friend, to me, and to other people who feel disenfranchised there’s a message that the city of Mt. Pleasant cares about them, that we accept them and want them here.”
The City Commission passed the ordinance unanimously, with one city official stating, “The city has received literally hundreds of comments either in writing or in person over the six months that this concept has been in public discussion.”
Equality Michigan is one of several organizations that helped support the efforts of Mt. Pleasant residents in passing their own ordinance. Roland Leggett, director of field operations, said that as more and more Michiganders push for local inclusive ordinances, Equality Michigan has been able to provide resources and support. “If people contact us, we can teach them about the process of getting an ordinance passed in their cities,” he said. “We teach them how to have conversations with the right people. We teach them to think: who else would help? Are any city leaders ready to move this forward?”
He said that looking at what happened in other cities can help guide new ordinance efforts. Leggett said that the best language to model after is the Kalamazoo ordinance, calling it the “best in the country” due to its inclusive language.
Recently the group was also there to support ordinance efforts in Flint and Traverse City. They are part of a state-wide coalition called Unity Michigan to advance LGBT equality with teamwork. Jon Hoadley, director of the Unity Michigan Coalition praised the passing of the Mt. Pleasant ordinance and said, “We celebrate this victory, made possible by the hardworking advocates in Mt. Pleasant. This marks the 19th city in Michigan to pass these protections momentum is growing across the state for fairness and equality.”
According to their research, 65 percent of Michiganders support making Michigan an equal opportunity state. The Don’t Change Yourself, Change the Law Campaign has seen growing success. (See http://dontchangeyourself.com/Quinlan2011.pdf). The Unity Michigan Coalition includes the ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations, Equality Michigan, KICK, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Ruth Ellis Center. Their goal is to ensure that all Michiganders are treated fairly by advancing non-discrimination policies. Find out more at http://www.unitymichigan.org.
Currently the municipalities with inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances are: