Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Royal Oak Human Rights Ordinance on the Ballot

In the Fall, Royal Oak voters will decide the fate of a human rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals, pregnant women, people of color and other groups. The ordinance's protections, available as a PDF online here, include “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical or mental limitation, source of income, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.” The ordinance will be officially titled Proposal A in the Nov. 5th election.

According to the Daily Tribune, a “similar local law was enacted by the Pleasant Ridge City Commission” in April “with no fanfare.” A relatively small but vocal portion of Royal Oak residents, on the other hand, have shown strong opposition to the ordinance, which is why it will be on the ballot. In April, Fred Birchard, a resident of Royal Oak “who campaigned to block a similar ordinance in 2001,” collected over 1,200 signatures to stop the ordinance from passing without a citywide vote, reported the Free Press.

Still, the 1,200 in opposition to the human rights measure make up a small fraction of Royal Oak's population of over 58,000. Royal Oak's commissioners, after all, reportedly passed the ordinance 6 to 1. Some opponents appear to be misinterpreting the ordinance's language and publicizing it – even state lawmakers. Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills recently told The Detroit News that he opposes the ordinance because it would give transgender people the right to use the bathroom that complies with their gender identities. This disregarded the presence of the exception specifically addressing bathroom use in section 10 of the ordinance.

Judging by this comment and others, awareness of the issue at hand may prove important to the passage of the ordinance this November. An organization called One Royal Oak is spearheading a campaign to support the ordinance. Want to get involved or provide resources? You can get in touch with the campaign manager at

Kai Niezgoda, Now Intern

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