Click Here!

Royal Oak Human Rights Ordinance Passes

By |2013-11-06T09:00:00-05:00November 6th, 2013|Michigan, News|

“I cannot stress too much how important tonight is to the City of Royal Oak,” said Mayor Jim Ellison as he addressed the crowd at the victory party for several local campaigns including the proposal for the Human Rights Ordinance. “We put this ordinance up there and people said do it!”
With 54 percent voting in favor of Proposal A, Royal Oak is now the 30th city or township in Michigan to ban discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression. While many cities are able to enact such ordinances with a commission vote, a small number of residents signed petitions forcing the matter to go to a full public vote in ROyal Oak and they lost.
The One Royal Oak Campaign stepped up to support the ordinance, setting up a campaign office and mobilizing scores of volunteers to go door-to-door, make phone calls and share stories to encourage people to get out and vote. The campaign raised over $100,000 and brought state and national attention to the cause of human rights in the city.
“This election is being watched by so many people in so many different areas,” Ellison said. “I know for a fact that the City of Southfield is waiting to see what happened with us before going ahead with theirs. Now I’ve got a feeling we’re going to start seeing more communities that are enacting this type of ordinance because they know that the voters in the City of Royal Oak supported it and said yes.”
Echoing that sentiment, Jon Hoadley of Unity Michigan said “this shows there is momentum in Michigan and I think this is a stair step on the way to full equality.”
Emily Divendorf of Equality Michigan is hopeful that the victory will affect change statewide. “The State Legislature should step up to the plate and make sure that we are all equal under the law, because our municipalities and our local leadership are ready to do so and our citizens are ready to defend their decisions if challenged,” she said. “I think that our leadership in the Michigan legislature is having a lot of really productive conversations and I am excited to see what comes of that because we haven’t seen the kind of productive discussion that we’re seeing this legislative session. I think our leaders know this is good for Michigan and good for business.”
In Royal Oak, the ordinance means that discrimination will be banned in housing, employment and public accommodations. Allison VanKuiken of the One Royal Oak campaign learned first-hand what discrimination really looked like.
“When my partner and I moved to Royal Oak we experienced discrimination on the housing front. We looked at about two dozen places and we were denied on the first 27 or 28 largely based on who I am as a member of the transgender community. And it’s very frustrating because it’s interesting being transgender, I’ve had the opportunity to live my life with male privilidge honestly. And I’ve never experienced that. And after coming out and starting the transition process I began to experience things very differently and that was hard for me. So tonight is a victory in the fact that if that does happen again, I have recourse.”
Edgar Rodriguez was among those celebrating the campaign’s success. He said that while he had never experienced discrimination personally, his partner had a story that stuck with him. “My partner went to a hotel with a friend a few years ago and they told him, they said, ‘you can’t go in a room with another man,'” he said. “That should not be their business.”
Even among straight allies, Proposal A made sense. Julie Tillotson and her husband Jack joined in the victory party. Julie had gone door to door for the One Royal Oak campaign. When asked why she said, “I’m a human being that’s why. I don’t believe in discriminating against anybody. Why would you support discrimination?”

About the Author:

Crystal Proxmire is the editor and publisher of The Oakland County Times. She loves covering municipal governance and cheering on community efforts.
Click Here!