UPDATE: Human Rights Ordinance Passes 6-1 in Royal Oak
Commissioners poised to create ordinance that would prohibit discrimination.
Monday, 9:16 p.m.: The Royal Oak City Commission passed a human rights ordinance on Monday by a vote of 6-1. Commissioner David Poulton was the lone dissenter. He indicated that the city has proven it is "tolerant" and preferred the matter be put before voters. More details will be posted when available.
Sunday, 5 a.m: The much talked about human rights ordinance for Royal Oak could be voted into law today, if commissioners are satisfied with answers to questions about monitoring compliance and processing complaints.
When the ordinance passed 6-1 on a first reading in January, commissioners also wanted to know if its protections were covered under existing state or federal laws.
If approved, the ordinance would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodation on the basis of a variety of factors including race, religion, weight, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. A violation would be a civil infraction, punishable by a fine of up to $500, plus the costs of investigation and prosecution.
Similar laws already are on the books in about a dozen Michigan communities, including Ferndale, Birmingham and Ann Arbor. Some of those communities were contacted to glean answers to the questions Royal Oak commissioners wanted before casting a final vote on the issue.
Tonight the council will discuss the findings as presented in a memo by City Attorney Dave Gillam:
- Guaging compliance by outside vendors is often the role of a purchasing agent, someone Royal Oak officials say they can't afford to hire.
- Complaints are handled often by a human rights or human relations commission or the city manager. Gillam suggests Royal Oak's police department take on this task, even though the chief is worried about workload.
- Gillam also wrote that various ordiances already on the books in the state cover some of the protections the city is proposing.
If the council passes the ordinance, it will take affect on March 14. Previously, Commissioner David Poulton was the lone dissenter. He indicated that the city has proven it is "tolerant" so a law saying so wasn't necessary.
But Craig Covey, who is a gay rights activist, former county commissioner representing southern Royal Oak and the former mayor of Ferndale, which approved their ordinance in 2003, said it still makes a huge difference to have the law on the books, saying it is especially important to gay and lesbian residents who often aren't otherwise protected.
"It says to the community and to the world that you are looking at someone by their ability, not by their sexual orientation or race or ...," he said.
The 7:30 p.m. meeting will be held at the Royal Oak City Hall's Commission Room at 211 S. Williams St., on the 3rd floor, room 315.