Royal Oak to vote on human rights initiative
Royal Oak will go to the polls on Nov. 5 to vote on a ballot initiative that proposes adding a human rights ordinance to the city code. The measure is controversial because it calls for protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, among other groups.
Royal Oak's city code does not currently include a non-discrimination clause. The city relies on state and federal protections to prevent discrimination.
Supporters of the proposed ordinance say it will make Royal Oak a safer place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Current federal and statewide non-discrimination laws do not include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Preston Van Vliet is a volunteer with One Royal Oak, which is advocating for the passage of Proposal A.
He is a transgender man, and says the human rights ordinance would make him feel safer in Royal Oak.
"When I applied for my apartment, I didn't put down the gender that I am because I was afraid I was going to be denied," he said. If Proposal A passes, people like Van Vliet would be protected from housing discrimination based on gender identity.
"I would be able to hold my partner's hand in my favorite restaurant and know that I couldn't get kicked out," he said.
Opponents of Proposal A say it would provide special treatment to LGBT people and cause discrimination against straight people.
Fadwa Gillanders is the spokesperson for Just Royal Oak, the organization campaigning against Proposal A.
She's concerned that Proposal A will expand the role of government.
"To have that kind of government control and regulation of the people is very obnoxious and very threatening," she said. "I don't think that that's what tolerance is about."
There are 29 cities and municipalities in Michigan with non-discrimination policies similar to Proposal A.
Royal Oak City Commissioner Jim Rasor says those communities saw positive outcomes after adopting those policies.
"They had found positive results both in economic development and in capturing the best and brightest college graduates for their communities," he said. "They also saw increases in property values."
Royal Oak voters turned down a similar measure in 2001. The City Commission passed a non-discrimination policy in March. Opponents of the policy then collected signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
-Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom