Earlier this year, Jackson Together, with the support of the HRC, Jackson Area Civil Rights Awareness Association, PFLAG, and more, asked once again for this City Council to take up the issue of a Non-Discrimination ordinance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It was tabled. We were asked to support this tabling of the motion by our mayor and vice mayor and Equality Michigan, the reason being that they thought that the state legislature, at the behest of the governor, would amend Elliott-Larsen to include LGBT people, and that would provide some of the same protections as our NDO at the state level. That change did not occur, as you know. The Mayor and Vice Mayor pledged to us that this issue would be brought back up in December if Elliott-Larsen was not amended. I’m here to hold you to that promise. The people of Jackson have waited too long for equality.
We’ve heard some nonsense about how this is not doable, and we’ve heard some nonsense that it’s bad for business. I call this nonsense because sixteen cities larger than ours in this state have passed just this sort of ordinance, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Flint, Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek. They have all proven that this is possible to do, and that it’s not bad for business. In fact, many companies are looking for places where their employees will be protected, and have already passed nondiscrimination policies for their corporations.
Perhaps you think we’re too small to tackle this. Yet twenty-one smaller cities have also proven this possible, including Adrian, Fenton, Grand Ledge, Mt. Pleasant, Pleasant Ridge (which has a total area of half of a square mile -- I grew up there), and Traverse City.
A recent Rolling Stone article named Michigan as the fifth worst state in the nation for LGBT people. They wrote:
Dave Garca, the executive director of Affirmations LGBT center, told CBS.... "It is still legal to fire people in Michigan for being gay, we can not marry, cannot adopt, and the governor signed away domestic partner benefits for LGBT public employees," Garcia said… it has "created an anti-gay environment across the entire state."
Garcia has a point: The Guardian's 2012 survey showed that Michigan has almost no protections for LGBT people at any level, putting it on par with Mississippi.
It’s time for Jackson, Michigan to rise above the level of Jackson, Mississippi. It’s time for the City Council to act.