EQMI Concerned About Language in Proposed City Ordinances

BTL Staff
By | 2018-03-05T22:42:19-05:00 February 3rd, 2018|Michigan, News|


On Monday, the Saline City Council will be presented with a revised draft of a non-discrimination ordinance for consideration. Council was set to vote on the first draft in December 2017, but postponed moving forward when Equality Michigan “pointed out issues, albeit somewhat overwrought,” said Councilmember Dean Girbach.

EQMI submitted a letter to the Saline City Council on Dec. 4 thanking them for their interest in becoming the next community to ban anti-LGBT discrimination in Michigan, but also calling on the Council to address a number of concerns with problematic language in the ordinance draft.

The letter stated, “We cannot support even a well-intentioned ordinance that explicitly licenses public accommodation discrimination against transgender individuals … This language will explicitly permit individuals and entities that are subject to the ordinance to engage in public accommodation discrimination against transgender individuals … an employer subject to Title VII that relies on your ordinance exemption to deny their transgender employees access to facilities that align with the employees’ gender identity would be violating Title VII and subject to legal sanctions. Likewise, an educational institution that relies on your ordinance exemption to deny transgender individuals access to appropriate facilities would be violating Title IX and subject to legal sanctions. We do not believe that it is in anyone’s interest for the city of Saline to enact an ordinance that would create this type of confusion.”

A code task force – Girbach with Councilmembers Linda TarHaar and Christen Mitchell – that brought the ordinance to Council “were honestly trying to clarify terminology and address all issues. To be clear, the NDO’s are not all the same in language or process, neither do they cover all aspects – the city of Jackson differs from Ann Arbor as does Chelsea and the others we compared,” said Girbach.

Nathan Triplett, director of public policy for EQMI, said that while the ordinances are not identical, there are certain essential elements that are common among successful ordinances.

“After 43 ordinances have been adopted across Michigan over the course of nearly 50 years, model language has been developed. There’s no need at this point to reinvent the wheel. More importantly, none of the 43 ordinances in Michigan have language remotely comparable to the provisions proposed in Saline related to public accommodation discrimination targeting transgender individuals,” he said. “The language of the Saline proposal is far more similar to North Carolina’s notorious HB 2 than it is to anything that exists in any Michigan nondiscrimination ordinance.”

The task force met last month with EQMI’s Executive Director Stephanie White.

“It is my understanding our attorney has addressed previous concerns based on her input to the committee,” said Girbach. “We hope to move ahead with an acceptable ordinance in March. It is very much a priority of our entire council to do this right.”

Yet, the revised draft, according to Triplett, does not address the concerns raised by EQMI.

The prior draft contained language allowing individuals and businesses “[t]o restrict use of restroom, changing room, and locker room facilities on the basis of binary gender.” The new draft says that it is permissible “[t]o restrict use of restroom, changing room, and locker room facilities on the basis of sex assigned at birth.” The draft defines “sex assigned at birth” as “the biological state of being male or female assigned at one’s birth certificate at birth or any subsequent alteration through surgical procedure.”

“If enacted, as presented, the Saline ordinance will have the effect of licensing discrimination against transgender residents and visitors,” said Triplett. “We remain hopeful that the Council will strike this deeply problematic language and instead opt to follow the well-developed example of the cities, villages, and townships that have already adopted successful, inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances across our state.”

The link to the Council agenda for Feb. 5 can be found here.

Lansing Township
EQMI is also working in collaboration with the ACLU of Michigan and the Lansing Association of Human Rights to address concerns about a non-discrimination ordinance adopted by the Lansing Charter Township on Jan. 23 without seeking input or guidance from the LGBTQ community. The three groups recently sent a letter to the Township Board outlining a series of specific concerns with the ordinance language.

The letter states, “the language contained within Ordinance No. 76 has the effect of affirmatively licensing anti-LGBT discrimination in the Township.” Specifically there is a religious exemption, a discrimination “permitted or required” exemption and ambiguous treatment of sex-segregated facilities, like bathrooms and locker rooms.

Supervisor of Lansing Township Diontrae Hayes and the Board supported the ordinance at the vote, but it’s unclear where they stands on the problematic language outlined in the letter. BTL has contacted Hayes for comment.

Residents of Saline and Lansing Township are urged to contact their elected officials.

Triplett adds, “These elected officials need to hear from their constituents that folks support adopting comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinances, but also that they want to see it done right, which means protecting everyone.”

Contact city of Saline elected officials here or call 734-429-4907. Contact city of Lansing Township elected officials here or call 517-485-4063.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.