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By AJ Trager
EAST LANSING – The East Lansing City Council approved an Equal Benefits Ordinance on Sept. 2 that will prohibit the city from entering into contracts with contractors who discriminate against employees based on marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, including by failing to provide equal employment benefits for its employees with domestic partners.
The ordinance was passed unanimously with a 5-0 vote and will be effective immediately. East Lansing Mayor and long time advocate for LGBT equality, Nathan Triplett, posted on his Facebook just hours after the decision was made that the event was “progress.”
The ordinance will ensure that the city does not support discrimination with taxpayer dollars, Triplett posts.
“Perhaps more importantly, the ordinance will use the City’s market power to extend equal benefits in the private sector,” he writes. “In fact, a survey of City contractors indicated that over 30 percent of City contractors currently do not provide equal benefits, but will do so if required as a condition of City contracts.”
“I’m glad we have a community that is willing to lead on these issues. It’s gratifying. I couldn’t be happier that there was no opposition,” Triplett said. “We’re demonstrating to the state legislature that they are decades behind the state times. They need to catch up with the rest of the world.”
The ordinance was proposed nearly a year ago, Triplett says, with support from city leaders and the Human Relations Commission (HRC) who said it would be in the best interest of the city to do business with contractors who do not discriminate.
The HRC of East Lansing released a statement in April supporting the ordinance, which would offer benefits to the same-sex domestic partners of city employees that are currently unavailable due to Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
“An Equal Benefits Ordinance will address one key piece of the inequality created by current state law,” the HRC statement reads. “It will help attract the kinds of talent and forward-thinking contractors that will contribute greatly to the vitality of our local community.”
Ordinance No. 1340 will amend Chapter 22 of the Code of the City of East Lansing by adding in Section 22-40 to Article II-Civil Rights: “To prohibit city contractors from discriminating against employees in the provision of benefits to their employee’s domestic partners based on marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”
East Lansing was the first city in the United States to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation back in 1972. The Gay Liberation Movement (now the Alliance of Queer and Ally Students) pressured the East Lansing City Council to pass the first ever anti-discrimination ordinance in March of 1972. Forty-two years later, President Barack Obama signed an executive order in July of 2014 prohibiting contractors who do business with the federal government from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.