Meridian Township Considering Ordinance to Protect LGBT Rights

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

Meridian Township is taking a stand against discrimination by introducing an ordinance that would protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered residents.

Township Board Trustee Angela Wilson, who introduced the ordinance, said it's long overdue.

"It's important that as a region we have similar ordinances so that we don't have pockets of discrimination," Wilson said. "We want to send the message that everybody is welcome in Meridian Township to live, to do business, and to have a business."

The board could decide to make a violation of the ordinance a criminal offense, resulting in a $500 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.

But some on the township's board said they're skeptical if such an ordinance would be successfully enforced.

"Someone has to intake the complaint, someone has to investigate the complaints, someone has to adjudicate the complaints and then someone has to prosecute," said Milton Scales, board trustee. "Those are additional resources that we currently don't budget for."

East Lansing has had a nearly identical ordinance in place to the one being proposed in Meridian Township since the 1970s.

"The cost to the city of operating our human relations committee is minimal, but the benefit can't be overstated," said Nathan Triplett, mayor pro tem in East Lansing. "

Triplett said it costs the city about $2,000 annually to enforce their ordinance and most complaints rarely, if ever, result in jail time.

"Under the ordinance our goal is to have the human relations commission ensure that people are protected from discrimination," Triplett said. "It's possible to issue citations under our ordinance but that's not the avenue we've chosen to exercise."

Meridian Township joins Delhi and Delta Township in a growing list of municipalities around the state stepping up to put these types of ordinances in place.

"The discussions have gone nowhere at the state level, the discussions are going very slowly at the federal level," Wilson said.

"That's the encouraging thing is that at the local level municipalities are able to step up and take the lead on this to protect our citizens when the state's not able to protect our citizens."

But not everyone agrees local municipalities should be taking up the issue.

"The whole campaign to have local units of government take on this battle is misguided," Scales said. The campaign needs to be directed at the legislature and at our governor and just making it a state law would resolve this issue throughout Michigan."

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