Village of Holly Votes 6-1 Against Human Rights Ordinance

Crystal A. Proxmire

Holly - The Village of Holly voted 6-1 against adopting a human rights ordinance that would have prohibited discrimination against LGBT people.

Several members of the public spoke against the ordinance.

"There's a natural, inherent conflict because we're trying to redefine terms," Tigg Vanaman said. "It's just amazing to me that civil, logical, natural people are having this discussion. A boy's a boy. A girl's a girl, no matter what you perceive yourself to be.

"But in our society everybody is protected. Everybody is right. I fear that path. Because if everybody is right, then nobody is wrong. If nobody is wrong then there are no laws. If there are no laws, there is no law enforcement. If there is no law enforcement, who's going to protect me and my family, and what we believe?"

Resident Cat Steele said, "We always talk about how we want to make Holly more attractive to families. Is this gonna make it more attractive to families? Are people gonna want to bring their children here? If its passed down by the federal government, we'll do it. If it isn't, why would we want to do that?

"...Everyone up here has a son, a daughter, a niece, a nephew, a mother for God's sake. And I think our responsibility at this point is to look out for us and not what the Feds want to do."

Joe Hutchins also recommended that the Village Council wait until a federal mandate was issued. "This has become the biggest controversial thing since abortion or anything else. The Feds are going to be handing this down in a very short time I think. And so what we do here -- spending our money and putting this on our books and trying to enforce what? ... We're just wasting our money."

Nobody in the audience spoke in favor of the human rights ordinance.

On the Council, only Village Council President Ryan Bladzik voted in favor of it. He was also the one who introduced it. "Our society is split on this. There are different viewpoints and those viewpoints have been changing over the years. To me this is simply about providing justice."

Councilperson David Cruickshank noted that Michigan is an "at-will" state, giving the example that if someone wanted to fire someone they could blame it on the color of their shoes, and the ordinance would not protect their job.

He explained his no vote by stating, "Property rights are one of the fundamental pillars of liberty and freedom. That's one of the reasons I got involved in political politics in the first place.

"I can certainly see where one would want to pass a law such as this. There are instances such as bigotry, the mistreatment of individuals who may appear different than others and they want to use government to protect those who are ridiculed for being different and that's a natural default.

"The false belief with that is, number one, government always has the answer. And number two that we can legislate morality. If that were the case the war on drugs would have been a home run, and there would have been no one murdered since Cain killed Abel. What we have in society is a morality issue; that will not be taken care of by the ordinance. The only way this can be resolved is by culture change and market forces."

Cruickshank added that if he knew a business was discriminating, he would tell people about it and let the financial consequences put the business under.

President Pro-Tem Debra Musgrave and Councilperson Suzanne L. Heiple said that the Village Attorney had advised against passage of the ordinance.

Councilperson Robert Kleven voted against it because it would cost the Village money to put it on the books and he believed no one would enforce it.

And Councilperson Robert Allsop said, "I don't know why we need to deal with this, it just needs to be gone. ...What goal is it to put this crap in an ordinance when they (Village residents) have to live with it when we're gone... These people don't need that punishment here."

With no one speaking in favor of human rights protection, and only Village Council President Bladzik voting for it, the ordinance failed 6-1.

Apart from cities that have local ordinances, it is legal in Michigan to fire someone for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or otherwise gender-nonconforming. It is legal for a landlord to throw someone out if they learn they are LGBT, or not show houses to a couple because they are gay. It is legal for stores to turn away customers because they do not want to serve people based on their sexual orientation or their gender expression. Similar practices were used historically to mistreat people of color, people with disabilities and women. Civil rights laws eventually reduced the amount of violence, threats, harassment and challenges faced by people in those groups by affirming their right to be treated equally under the law.

Because the law cannot protect them, LGBT people face discrimination or the fear of discrimination in a way that impacts their day to day lives. Many feel they have to hide who they are because of the risk of losing their jobs, their homes, or their ability to be in public in their communities.

Over 40 municipalities have enacted local human rights ordinances to protect LGBT people while in their community, including Detroit, Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Huntington Woods, Lansing, Lathrup Village, Muskegon, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Southfield and the Village of Lake Orion.

Tuesday's vote means that Holly is not among this list.


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