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ROYAL OAK – With anti-equality robocalls coming in from a well-funded outside opposition, members of the One Royal Oak campaign are working hard to fight back on a grassroots level. One way is with blue signs in the windows of businesses that support Proposal A, the effort to uphold the city-council-approved human rights ordinance that would ban discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Over 35 businesses have agreed to put their support publically behind the measure. “I don’t support the human rights issue in Royal Oak. I support the human rights issue everywhere,” said Patti Brock of Annabelle’s Couture. Brock is a Ferndale resident and is surprised that Royal Oak does not already have protections for LGBT people. “Why do I think it’s such a contentious issue in this city? I wish I knew. I am incredulous to think that this is where we are at this place and time. What happened to ‘do unto others?’ ‘Treat people the way you want to be treated.’ It seems very elementary to me. That’s me though and unfortunately it isn’t just this city as we all know.”
Michael “Chet” Chetcuti, part owner of Bigalora and Cloverleaf Fine Wine is part of the LGBT family. When he and his business partner chose Royal Oak, they did not realize protections were not in place. “Like most, had we known there was no HRO in Royal Oak, we would not have invested millions in the community,” he said.
Chetcuti and his partner “threw a swank cocktail party at our home featuring food from Bigalora Wood Fired Cucina and fine wine from Cloverleaf Fine Wine. The party was a huge success and raised thousands of dollars and also featured a keynote address from Democratic Governor hopeful Mark Schauer.” Bastone, another welcoming Royal Oak establishment, donated craft beer for the event and deejay Ashley Russell provided the beats.
For businesses like these the reason is simple. “We do not believe anyone should be discriminated against or subjected to such hatred,” Chetcuti said.
Elevating the issue are the small businesses like Lift, who have signs on their doors or windows. Owners Kent and Kim Alverson are allies who have hired LGBT people in the past. They have lived in Royal Oak for 11 years and owned their store for six years.
“It’s what’s right,” Kim said. “We should have done it a long time ago. We support everyone.”
Over 35 businesses have agreed to put their support publicly behind the Human Rights Ordinance which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. Signs can be found all around the city of Royal Oak encouraging a YES vote. BTL photos: Crystal Proxmire
The Alversons say that most people have been supportive of the sign they have in their door asking people to vote “Yes” on Proposal A. “It has started some conversations,” she said. “One older gentleman came in and was asking about it. I expected him to be against it, but really he just had questions and wanted to know more about it.”
There has been a great deal of misinformation being shared by those opposed to the ordinance. Just Royal Oak, with their intentionally confusing name, has launched a website and social media campaign touting myths about the “homosexual lifestyle” and trying to mislead the public with the idea that equal rights are actually special rights. Currently in Michigan, civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, disability or marital status – but not sexual orientation and gender identity. Their mantra is “equal rights, not special rights,” yet they do not share the fact that in Michigan people can still be fired just for being gay or because someone suspects they may be.
“We’ve hired people of all different persuasions,” Kim added. “It doesn’t matter what they do in their personal life.” Yet not all employers have this attitude, which is why nondiscrimination laws are important.
Other supporters include Noir Leather, Pronto, Bingo Pet Salon, Cafe Muse, Holiday Market, Five 15 Media Mojo & More, and The Aquarium Shop.
To learn more about the campaign for equality in Royal Oak, visit http://www.oneroyaloak.org.