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Gay rights discussed at candidate forum

By | 2016-03-10T09:00:00-05:00 March 10th, 2016|Uncategorized|

By Sharon Gittleman

ROYAL OAK – When Royal Oak’s gay and lesbian voters mark their ballots this November, many will remember how their city leaders voted in the contentious 2001 human rights ordinance battle. That law, designed to protect lesbian and gay civil rights, was defeated by residents in a special election by a two-to-one margin.
How do the current crop of City Commission and Mayoral candidates view the ordinance? All but two of the individuals running for office this year said they would have turned thumbs down on the measure. Political newcomer Bill Reisdorf, seeking a spot on the Commission and Jim Ellison, who hopes to be Royal Oak’s next Mayor, were the two dissenting voices.
The question arose during a forum held last week for the city’s six Commission contenders and three Mayoral candidates. Cecilia Adkins, who is running for Royal Oak’s top post, did not attend the debate.
Andy Prentice said he thought the Commission chamber was the wrong place to discus “social issues.”
Commission hopeful Gary Lelito, who is gay, said he thought there were “far more pressing” issues that needed to be dealt with.
“There was a valid initiative two years ago and people voted against it,” said Lelito. “No means no.”
Former Commissioner Mike Andrzejak and candidate Pat Capello also said they didn’t support a new human rights ordinance.
“The voters voted no and that is where it should stay,” said Capello.
Terry Drinkwine, who is seeking a seat on the Commission this year, said he wasn’t in favor of the ordinance.
“I don’t believe you make legislation to make preferences for one group,” he said.
Reisdorf said he would have voted for the ordinance, “if it had been better drawn.” He added that he would have liked to see protection for the rights of the “unborn” added to the law.
Shirley Evoe, who is running for Mayor, said she agreed with the decision to place the ordinance on the ballot in 2001 and added she didn’t support the measure.
“It troubles me that these issues are brought to the table at the city level,” she said.
During the debate, Mayoral candidate Jim Ellison said he supported the measure at the time of the vote but wouldn’t support it again.
“The folks have spoken,” he said. “They don’t want it.”
After the forum, Ellison called BTL concerned that his viewpoint might have been misunderstood.
“It’s not going to come back up. It’s a dead issue for now,” he said. “If it comes back up, I might support it.”
Candidates were also questioned about whether they held “right-wing traditional Christian family values.”
Drinkwine described his family’s “traditional” approach to discipline as well as values at the debate, noting he was a 19-year-old army recruit before he realized “a wooden spoon was for stirring soup.”
“I believe in traditional family values and I don’t care if it comes from the right, left, in front or behind me,” said Drinkwine.
Reisdorf believes in the golden rule.
“My traditional family values are to treat my neighbor as myself, as I would like to be treated and to try not to prejudge them,” he said. “That’s what a community is all about.”
After the debate, Reisdorf described his philosophy to BTL.
“I’m a moderate Republican,” he said. “I think civil liberties are sacrosanct. In terms of your personal life, you are entitled to your privacy.”
Reisdorf welcomed gay and lesbian support of his candidacy.
“They will have an assurance that I have a realistic, modern attitude about individual rights,” he said. “The Supreme Court has made a ruling about privacy. They’ve said what goes on in your bedroom is your business.”

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 27th anniversary.