BTL Staff Report
SAGINAW – Saginaw City is posed to become the next municipality in Michigan to pass a non-discrimination ordinance that protects LGBT people in employment and public accommodation. The push for passage of a non-discrimination ordinance is being led by Councilwoman Annie Boensch.
“When I found out that the city did not have an ordinance in place protecting the LGBT community when it came to public accommodation and employment, I thought it was something very obvious that needed to change,” Boensch told MLive.
The proposed ordinance had its first read before Saginaw city council April 7. It will come up for an actual vote by the council at their second meeting later this month.
The ordinance would ban discrimination against someone based on that person’s “actual or perceived sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.” Violations of the ordinance would be considered civil infractions and violators could face a fine of up to $500.
Boensch explained that the ordinance would prevent a business owner from denying service to someone because they are gay, lesbian or transgender. It would ensure that gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be a factor for employers when making hiring, firing and promotion decisions, she said.
Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan and a full time anti-LGBT activist, has been outspoken in his opposition this ordinance. Glenn announced late last year his intention to seek a seat on the Michigan House of Representatives, and Saginaw City would be within the district he would represent if he wins.
The ordinance proposed in Saginaw is different than the question that recently came before Bay County leaders, Boensch explained. The Bay County proposal, defeated narrowly in a 4-3 vote, sought to ban any discriminatory practices in county employment and contract practices.
Saginaw’s ordinance would be much more inclusive, Boensch said, applying to any businesses or organizations providing employment or “public accommodations” within Saginaw city limits.
“This is not what Bay County was looking at,” she said. “This is citywide.”
Most members of Saginaw City Council said they are open to the idea, though few have made up their minds about how they feel about the proposed ordinance.
“I think we need to introduce it before we discuss it in depth,” Mayor Dennis Browning said. “I’m open-minded and am certainly willing to have some debate on it.”
Browning said his two areas of concern deal with enforcement and what impacts, positive or negative, passing it might have on the city government and Saginaw’s citizens.
“My questions are who is going to enforce it and what will it cost the community,” he said. “Those are things we need to discuss.”
Boensch pointed out that Saginaw has long had protections for the LGBT community when it comes to equal treatment in housing. That ordinance, she said, was passed in 1984, when she was 3 years old.
“It’s a controversial issue,” she said. “There’s no doubt. I anticipate there being an outcry. But I’m just as confident that there is going to be a lot of support as well.”