Residents Plead With Rochester Hills Leaders: Protect Human Rights

A group called Rochester Hills Together wants an ordinance that protects the LGBT community from discrimination; councilmembers advise them to take their fight to the state level.

About a dozen people — parents and kids alike — pleaded this week with Rochester Hills leaders to create a "welcome mat" for the city by becoming the 20th Michigan city to enact a human rights ordinance.

"We're not asking you to legalize same-sex marriages," said Nick Rinehart, a member of the group Rochester Hills Together. Rinehart is a recent Rochester High School graduate who expressed his worry that he could someday be fired for being gay. 

"We're not promoting some radical agenda. What we're asking you to do tonight is to simply enact a measure that would make it so people of Rochester Hills cannot be discriminated against for merely loving somebody."

After hearing the requests from Rinehart and others to consider an anti-discriminatory ordinance, the majority of Rochester Hills City Council members agreed it's a request that's best made at the state or federal level.

How they got here

In February, city council approved a resolution intended to strengthen the city's commitment to civil rights. But in doing so, councilmembers opted not to  that would specifically oppose pending legislation that could adversely affect those civil rights.

Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, introduced HB 5039 last year. If approved it would prohibit municipalities from extending additional rights to those not covered by the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976.

The Elliott-Larsen Act protects people on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, weight, height, familial or marital status. But it does not offer protection on the basis of sexual orientation.

Some municipalities have approved their own ordinances related to Elliott-Larsen that extend the act's protections to the lesbian and gay community. That's what members of Rochester Hills Together were asking leaders to consider on Monday night.

Passionate pleas

This is the second meeting that Rochester Hills Together members have attended in full force. The ordinance they drafted would go above Elliott Larsen and provide anti-discrimination protections for the LGBT community in housing, public accommodations and employment.

They were asking councilmembers to put the ordinance on a future agenda.

"It is simply a welcome mat to our city," said Lisa Schein. "Being a mom of four in Rochester Hills, I want to raise my kids in a community where we can say it's okay to be who you want to be."

Linda Davis-Kirksey asked councilmembers to formalize the Rochester Hills Together group as a city committee and invited other councilmembers to take part in the process.

Joanna Hill, an automotive engineer who lives in Hazel Park, told city councilmembers that she was born John Hill and has struggled with being transgendered.

"To be transgendered in this world you can lose your job, you can be denied housing, you can be discriminated against simply because of your DNA," Hill said.

Rinehart told councilmembers how he plans to attend the University of Michigan this fall. 

"No matter how successful I might be in my career, I can still be fired for being gay," he said. "No matter how financially independent I am, I can be denied housing for being gay."

Brian Kirksey asked councilmembers to state, on the record, their feelings about the ordinance.

"This deserves to be on the agenda," he said.

City council reacts

Council President Greg Hooper said there was not enough support on his council for the resolution to be put on the agenda.

"I do not support an ordinance," Hooper said. "This is a federal and state issue. It has always been enforced and regulated by them. We do not possess the expertise here in Rochester Hills to do that — to investigate and prosecute violations of an ordinance of this type."

Hooper said he welcomed the efforts and passion of those who came to speak and urged them to take their focus to the state level. 

Councilmembers Michael Webber, Nathan Klomp and Adam Kochenderfer agreed with Hooper that the focus of those in the audience should be at the state level.

Councilmember James Rosen said, "I have nothing useful to add tonight."

Councilmember Mark Tisdel said city council had no authority to create new civil rights. Quoting from John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison, Tisdel said he "simply cannot and will not vote for a newly-created claim right at the expense of our endowed and unalienable property rights."

Webber suggested Rochester Hills Together gather signatures and put the question up for a ballot vote — similar to what those in .

Only councilmember Yalamanchi, who has supported Rochester Hills Together from the beginning, spoke out in support of the ordinance.

"To me nothing supercedes a human right," Yalamanchi said. "The reality is, every day discrimination happens in one form or another.

"The struggles these individuals or families go through is just unimaginable. If we could come together here in our community and demonstrate that we do not tolerate any type of discrimination, it would be a good thing for the community."

Mayor Bryan Barnett also offered his thoughts on a civil rights ordinance, agreeing with Hooper that the battle is best fought at the state level. 

"I don't run all of the businesses in Rochester Hills; I'm responsible for one — the one you're sitting in," Barnett said. "We don't ask or care if you are gay or straight when you apply for a building permit; we don't ask or care if you are gay or straight when you enter one of our parks; we don't ask or care if you are gay or straight when you apply for a job here."

Chris August 01, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Hey, at least the religious people have protected rights ;) Do you also realize discussing this issue is what the group wanted and the council wouldn't even do that? Couldn't even make the agenda.
Cheryl Junker August 01, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Are you sure you want to pursue the 'pedophile' line of questioning as I seem to recall there was a little scandal with the Mormon church as of late........or was that the 'fundamentalist' Mormon church (so easy to confuse the two).........involving someone by the name of Warren Jeffs. If it werent for 'Religious' protection under Elliot-Larson, it would be perfectly legal to discriminate against 'Mormons' or 'fundamentalists' or 'Christians' or 'American Christians'.(take your pick)........and would you really want that?
John August 01, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Funny that the most fiscally conservative council member is fighting for equal rights. Kind of takes the partisanship out of it, eh Alex?
Judy August 01, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Thank you City Council for not supporting this cause. I greatly respect each of you for having the courage to not cave into being politically correct .
Clara T August 01, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Why is no mention made in the Patch story (or any subsequent comments )of Ann Arbor State Sen Rebekah Warren’s recently introduced legislation (Senate Bill 1063) which would amend Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act by adding protections prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression to the existing state law? Working to extend these legal protections at the state level by lobbying for the passage of SB 1063 would seem to be a far more effective action plan.
Brian Kirksey August 01, 2012 at 11:11 PM
"Quoting Old Testament...we do not live by that law anymore". Funny, do you only read certain parts of the Bible when ti is convenient for your argument and reject the other portions, when its messy? Last I checked, they are part of the same book. My objection is not with Christianity, as I am a Christian too. My objection is when people use Christianity as an excuse for bigotry. Using statements like the "Bible says..." well the Bible says a lot of things, most of which is good, other parts not so good. If Julie says the "Bible says it is wrong" she opens up the argument to the fallibility of the document. If she said, I believe it is wrong...well that is her opinion, but to hide behind the Bible as a means of somehow shielding her bigotry with moral superiority...as a Christian, and a human being I cannot let that go unchecked. BTW Peter, nowhere in the Bible does it say play the role of God and judge everyone for him. Thank goodness we live in the US and we are not subject to religious law...
Amanda Kirksey August 01, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Clara, I wholeheartedly agree that this legislation is an effective plan of action. However, Ann Arbor already has a Human Rights Ordinance in place so they have nothing to lose; we do. :(
Brian Kirksey August 01, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Good news Alex, each of your examples...none of the people would be legally allowed to discriminate under the ordinance. Hard to imagine that those examples still exist today, but they do! Substitute in each of your examples: Can a religious school refuse to hire a black teacher? Can a religious organization refuse to serve a bi-racial couple? Can a religious couple operating a bed and breakfast refuse accommodations to a unmarried couple? Can a religious business owner refuse to print fliers supporting a civil rights amendment? Seems silly, but your tired arguments were the same 50 years ago with different words and groups. Ah yes, bigotry is timeless...climb back in your time machine Alex, the winds of change are coming and soon people who love you will be embarrassed when you speak.
Brian Kirksey August 01, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Is politically correct now synonymous with being tolerant and showing compassion? If so I hope I am continued to be called politically correct, maybe I'll even get lucky and be called a liberal
Amanda Kirksey August 01, 2012 at 11:29 PM
This isn't about being politically correct; this is about having compassion for others. There are a lot of people in this world who I don't prefer, but I don't wish for them to suffer hardships or be discriminated against. I would NEVER teach my children to wish ill-will on someone who is different, even if I didn't understand.
Chad August 01, 2012 at 11:43 PM
The council is playing a very dangerous game. Seems like there is a major disconnect. LGBT people are very organized and let's face it, they have it pretty rough. Those kids at city council will not let this slide. They will vote with their feet and their advocates will vote with their wallets. Rochester Hills loses whatever side you are on.
laurie puscas August 01, 2012 at 11:49 PM
These are athe same officals that your mother backed in the last election - you must be a split family.
Bob G August 02, 2012 at 12:13 AM
http://library.municode.com/mobile/document.aspx There are exemptions for religion. Per Oak Press, Staran's partner wrote this ordinance.
MonicaG August 02, 2012 at 12:26 AM
I hope that the effort to add LGBT protection to the Elliot-Larsen Act at the state level is succesful. That seems to be the appropriate government level for this type of protection. To the best of my knowledge, Rochester Hills does not currently get involved in civil rights violations for the other categories covered in the Act. In order to have an effective ordinance there must be enforcement and penalties. What department in the city will be tasked with this job under this ordinance? What is the expected cost to the city to put this ordinance in place? When I listened to the Council members and Mayor I did not hear anyone say that they opposed this due to an opposition to any LGBT persons. The argument put forward most often is that this is a state role, not a local government role. Let's work together and get the amendment to Eliott-Larsen passed rather than beat up a local city government.
Cheryl Junker August 02, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Thank you Brian and Amanda. Our kids need our support and our voices! Kids are outing at younger and younger ages into families of ALL religions. Future generations of LGBT young adults need the same support as we did as women entering society not too long ago. We adults need to recognize that although Religious preference is a CHOICE, Sexual preference is NOT! The former is protected by law, the latter is what we are defending.....and NEITHER should be imposed!
Ashley Bartlett August 02, 2012 at 01:43 AM
In my oppinion as a agnostic american citizen I completely agree with Brian and Amanda and say that our future is with kids. Why are we creating so much hate and setting an example by judgement. Whether gay,straight,black,white,blue,purple etc etc....it doesn't matter. Its 2012 people gay marriage is nothing out of the norm and when it comes to the "book of stories" (the bible), its a outdated book that doesn't have any judgement on how things are "supposed" to be. Further more let us learn to all just cohabitate and stop with the negativity and judgements, sorry thats just the hippie in me........:)
Monica August 02, 2012 at 02:12 AM
So McMillin tells the gay people in Rochester that they are second class citizens and only 1 government official in this area calls foul? I guess if you look back in history and see that the same local government officials invited Kirk Cameron to their annual prayer breakfast it makes sense.
Bonnie Cone August 02, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Thanks, Brian, for your well-reasoned comments on this divisive issue.
Mel August 02, 2012 at 04:40 AM
AFA - a certified hate group has the majority? That's a good one. You are right though. They are the Westboro Baptists of this area and McMillin loves them.
Brian Kirksey August 02, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Alex there is nothing bigoted about my comments, and you are in the wrong that most religious folk believe like you do. You have taken a great world religion, and bastardized it to support your own intolerance and hatred, the is reprehensible. There is nothing within the teachings of Jesus that says to discriminate against people who believe different, there is nothing that says to discriminate against sinners, and there is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing within the teachings of Jesus that says to punish them and make their lives difficult because they believe differently. Even if what they are doing is a sin, guess what, there is so much sin going on around you at any given moment. You have decided that homosexuality is your chosen sin that you are going to enforce for God. Why don't you start acting like Christians if you are going to use it to support your arguments? There is nothing worse then people using religion to support their own backward agenda, especially when the religion asks you to behave differently.
Lee Zendel August 02, 2012 at 02:36 PM
If the city passes such an ordinance and a LGBT community member is at my home on Dutton Rd. his civil rights under the ordinance are protected. Let him walk 40 feet across the road (Oakland Twp) and his rights are no longer protected. He drives about 2 miles west (Auburn Hills) and again his rights are longer protected. Drive about 3 miles east (Shelby) and again is no longer protected. 6 miles south (Troy) and same story. What is needed and long overdue is State legislation. Actually the right answer is that LGBT rights be added to Federal Civil rights legislation . Rochester Hill's auditing firm Plante and Moran claim they audit 125 Michigan cities which are probably just about all of the largest cities in the state.. For the LBGT community to say that 19 cities have adopted such an ordinance shows, in my opinion, that their strategy of getting such an ordinance passed in individual cities is the wrong strategy. This is a statewide and national civil rights issue and should have already been enacted in state and federal law. In my opinion, the LGBT community should concentrate their efforts where they get the biggest bang for their buck (and time) and that's not in the local communities.
Cheryl Junker August 02, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Ha Ha Alex......You wouldnt be the first try......and what makes you think I havent already? I was thinking the same thing about you......would love to have your efforts focused on the progressive side.......but then again, what fun would that be........someone has to play devils advocate.........oops pardon the pun (trying to stay away from religious references you know)......keeping it civil this time......and BTW.......your character is practically writing itself.........you might even get mentioned in the credits as I know you love the spotlight!..........and if you help with the marketing, might even give you a cut in the proceeds............How about Jeremy Piven?.......been dying to get your input on this one..........he and John Cusack ( you know who he would be playing)......Oh, but I digress........have to get back to work:)
Scot Beaton August 02, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Was America founded on Judeo-Christian principles? My opinion is NO. Our Founding Fathers were all Christians but many of them were also men of science and intended to create a government that is neutral toward religion. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..."
Scot Beaton August 02, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Benjamin Franklin purposely choose the word "Creator" over God to keep religion out of The Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin was a man of science who grew up in the Age of Enlightenment who used science to challenge the religious beliefs at the time. One of Franklin's greatest inventions was the lightning rod...it helped to ruin over 1,500 years of Christian oppression throughout Europe...when lightning hit the church and burned it to the grown it was not because the town was full of sin; better pay more money into the central church for forgiveness; but according to Franklin lightning was a natural force that could be controlled by man.
Scot Beaton August 02, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Benjamin Franklin believed God created the universe but that's about it. That is where the word "Creator" comes from. Our Constitution does not contain the words God, Christianity, Jesus, Christ, or Judeo-Christian. The Constitution's only references to religion serve to exclude it from the government, by providing that there shall be no law respecting an establishment of religion, no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion, and no religious test for any public office. Our Constitution deliberately omitted any mention of God in order to assign supreme governmental power to "We the People." Thus, they opposed the doctrine of the "Divine Right of Kings," which had enabled monarchs to wield absolute power in the name of God for centuries. It is imperative that the Founding Fathers' precious gift of church-state separation be cherished and upheld. This principle has given Americans more religious freedom than is possessed by any other people. And it has enabled the U.S. to avoid the types of bloody religious conflicts that fill the pages of history and are still seen in many parts of the world.
Scot Beaton August 02, 2012 at 04:17 PM
"All men are created equal:" that's pretty clear to me that same sex relationships in America deserve equal rights to opposite sex relationships and "religion or one's religious beliefs" should not play a part in government decisions. I thank the residents for their uplifting comments in the Rochester Patch; Let us be the ones who continually forgive those who are prejudice; also we must continue to stand for freedom and denounce prejudice thoughts in this great country. I would support an LGBT ordinance and I also thank Ravi Yalamanchi for his comments.
Bryan August 02, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Alex is another Christian in name only. Jesus never threw rocks at gay people. You, our state rep, do. Sad
Scot Beaton August 02, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Cities and Counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that Include Gender Identity As of March 29, 2012 at least 163 cities and counties prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment ordinances that governed all public and private employers in those jurisdictions. This list does not include those cities and counties that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity for city and county employees --such policies do not affect private employers in those jurisdictions. Michigan: Ann Arbor, City of 1999 Detroit, City of 2008 East Lansing, City of 2005 Ferndale, City of 2006 Grand Rapids, City of 1994 Huntington Woods, City of 2002 Kalamazoo, City of 2009 Lansing, City of 2006 Saugatuck Township 2007 Saugatuck, City of 2007 Traverse, City of 2011 Ypsilanti, City of 1997 Lee, It's all about demographics and forward thinking -- Rochester Hills close proximity to Oakland University would conclude I would hope that Rochester Hills is in many ways a college town. And a college town like Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Kalamazoo, Ypsilanti, etc. is a club of progressive forward thinking communities I would be proud to be members with; and a LGBT ordinance is just one of many ways to prove to your region that our leadership is not stuck in the stone ages. http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/cities-and-counties-with-non-discrimination-ordinances-that-include-gender
Brian Kirksey August 02, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Alex that might be the funniest thing I have ever read or been accused of! I am a bigot because I discriminate against bigots. Too funny, so I'm a bigot against bigots! I am fairly confident (if you were actually serious, which I cannot imagine a world in which you would be) that might be the best compliment I have ever received. What I also read is that you are using the term traditional Christian, is that synonymous with bigot as well, and that you think they deserve the right to be able to discriminate because people are different than them. I would also imagine they would also choose to want to discriminate against the scores of people that worship false idols (money)...should your traditional folk also want to deny housing to people who work over 40 hours too, or have high credit balances, or blinged out rappers? The verses in the Bible that rail against homosexuality, also rail against adultery. Are the traditional Christians also going to discriminate against adulterers too? Seeing I only hear the your side railing against homosexuality but not the other sins that the Bible puts in the same category, even in the same verse, makes me believe that you are only using the Bible, Christianity, traditional Christians as a ruse to support your own bigotry...way to hijack Jesus's teachings, I'm sure he would be proud. If you want to use the Bible to support your views at ;east be consistent with discrimination against all sinners, not just the ones you dislike the most
Another Kirksey August 02, 2012 at 06:51 PM
In what specific way does Rochester Hills seek to limit the rights of, or discriminate against LGBT citizens currently? just wondering..


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