Residents Plead With Royal Oak Leaders: Protect Human Rights

After nearly an hour of public comment, commissioners pass a resolution to draft an ordinance to protect the LGBT community and others from discrimination.

Monday night Royal Oak City Commissioners voted to create a "welcome mat" for the community by becoming the next Michigan city to enact a human rights ordinance.

Commissioners voted unanimously to have City Attorney Dave Gillam draft a broad ordinance that will protect against discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodation on the basis of height, weight, marital status, source of income, family responsibility, education association, sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status. In doing so, Royal Oak will join Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Detroit, East Lansing, Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Saginaw, Traverse City and Ypsilanti in enacting a human rights ordinance.

Why a human rights ordinance?

The discussion of a human rights ordinance was requested by City Commissioners Jim Rasor and Kyle DuBuc.

“Royal Oak is a diverse community,” said Rasor by phone before Monday's meeting. “In today’s society, a majority of the population looks at sexual orientation the same way they look at religion, race, sex, age, marital status, and occupation. And yet, it is perfectly legal in Royal Oak to put up a sign in front of a rental property that says 'No gays.'” 

Rasor told commissioners he believes an ordinance strengthens the city's commitment to civil rights and in doing so makes the city stronger and more welcoming for all people who want to live, work or invest here.

"It's a municipal best practice," he said. "This is the best tool we have to ensure we're including best and the brightest."

Passionate pleas

Several residents displayed their passion, vulnerability and sense of humor on the matter during the public comment, which lasted about 50 minutes.

Michael Chetcuti and Kyle Evans—Royal Oak residents, business owners and employers—said they felt very strongly about the issue.

"We hope that you guys make the right decision and be part of a more progressive community like the surrounding communities," Chetcuti told commissioners.

Tara Makar, holding her infant daughter Kennedy, pleaded with commissioners to "be on the right side of history" and make Royal Oak a city her children will not be ashamed to grow up in.

"Look at this face. Do you want to disappoint her?" Makar said, and, as if on cue, the baby started to cry.

"You can't always trust people will do the right thing, otherwise you wouldn't need laws," Makar said.

Royal Oak resident Tom Violante, who founded Holiday Market in 1954, reminded commissioners in 2001 voters crushed a proposal for a human rights ordinance by a 2-1 margin that would have banned discriminatory employment and housing practices.

"It was not Royal Oak's finest hour," Violante said. "There are still members of the LBGT community that won't spend a dime here because of it."

Then choking back tears, Violante recalled how gay relative approached him.

"I looked him straight in the eye, hugged him and I told him I loved him and he was perfect just the way he is," Violante said. "I say it's time to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and work toward a future that does not say you belong or you don't belong."

A 71-year-old resident who identified himself as Jerry said, as he walked to City Hall in the dark, he thought about how lucky he was that no one bothers him and that he feels safe—and then he thought about how gay people have been beat to death, he said.

"We should pass this because it gives the police more power and lets people know we are not going to fool around," he said—adding he doesn't "give a darn" who lives next to him. "As long as when you move into my neighborhood you pick up your yard, I don't care what you do."

Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter also spoke during public comment. "Royal Oak South," as Coulter jokingly referred to his city, has had a human rights ordinance on the books since 2006. The mayor said he remembered a common argument against the ordinance was concern it would be a drain on public resources.

"I asked our police chief how many cases have involved the police department in the decade or so we have had the ordinance," Coulter said. "He said, 'Zero.' I can tell you the resources spent enforcing it have been none."

Alex Shnaider warned commissioners not to exclude anyone in the ordinance.

"You have to include everybody—members of the minorities and members of the majorities—otherwise we could come across a case of reverse discrimination. So think about it before you do it," he said.

City commission reacts

"Of course we should do this, as so beautifully stated by all the residents who came out tonight. We need to be on the right side of history and make a note that we welcome and respect all kinds of people here in Royal Oak," DuBuc said.

After coming off a particularly nasty campaign season full of insults, Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello said she welcomed a ordinance that speaks to tolerance.

Commissioner Peggy Goodwin called it "surprising" that in 2012 there is not federal legislation that covers sexual orientation and marital status among other things.

"This shows that there's equality of all people, which I think we already demonstrate in this city," she said. "But if my colleagues believe we need legislation to back that up, I'm supportive of it."

Commissioner Dave Poulton said he looked forward to seeing the language of the ordinance and giving residents an opportunity to express their opinion on it, one way or another.

For Commissioner Mike Fournier the ordinance was about advancing the human condition and he supported it.

"Tonight I'll go home quietly, enter my children's rooms, kiss them on the forehead, and know that their dad did the right thing tonight." 

Mayor Jim Ellison also offered his thoughts on the human rights ordinance. 

"I will absolutely be supporting this. I think this is the time. And, certainly the place that we need this ordinance is in the City of Royal Oak."

Ellison said the enactment of the ordinance will likely go unnoticed in the day-to-day lives of residents.

"But I think it will affect those looking to our city as a place to come, a place locate, and a place to do business. It shows we are willing to go the extra mile to protect and invite people into our community."

Judy J November 27, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Mr. Wolf--you are correct, I need to stop reading this stuff. The salicious, detailed descriptions of sex acts in bathrooms has little to do with reality and much to do with bigoted, uninformed, tormented souls obviously in need of help. We can only pity these people and move on to live our lives with love and compassion. I am pleased at the recent news that Royal Oak is a highly desirable place to live, the fact that hew homes are built and then purchased within days, and that my hometown is a vibrant and welcoming place for all. For those who spew such venom, I will pray for you and hope you move past this psychological illness to see the good in the world instead of focusing on the disgusting negatives you perceive. Peace
The Duke of Royal Oak November 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM
I believe that this discussion on Equal Rights is relevent and should not be shut down by the editor. This exposes the hatred and evil that still exisist by some people and the Republican/Tea Party's true platform. This has inspired me to make a donation to www.hrc.org which fights for Equal Rights for the homosexual community. Donating to the Human Rights Campaign or a local organization that defends the homosexual community against this exact hatred is a good way to fight this hatred.
Mary Ellen Bell November 27, 2012 at 01:05 PM
You are right, Duke! let's keep this in the open so we can identify those who hate and stop them. I am writing my check now.
The Duke of Royal Oak November 27, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Judy J- Great perspective and very kind hearted. So refreshing to hear kindness.
Paul Nepote November 27, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Thanks for the note Paul. It must be a sad existence to constantly try and make acceptable a lifestyle that will never be so.
Paul Nepote November 27, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Judy J, There are at least 1800 caring loving people in my town, who for years refused to get evolved . We tried to ignore the few homosexuals who on rare occasions would act out, and justified looking the other way by reciting the old saying " live and let live ". While we were looking away, and not paying attention to local politics, there were things happening to our city that one just could not ignore. The first thing that really caught my attention was the closing of one of the most beautiful scenic lookouts and picnic areas in the state. Next two of my favorite nature areas in Grand Traverse County were closed. When a group who were active in the Boy Scouts of America, and the Boy's and Girl's Clubs looked into the loss of these public lands to our use and enjoyment we were finally told by MDOT and the State Police, that those areas had to be closed due to homosexual activity that the State Police and Sheriff's Department could no longer keep under controll due to a lack of personal. Local families and visitors had made an alarming amount of verifiable complaints. Before closing those areas the authorities placed signs warning visitors of the danger at these parks. The homosexual backers complained, so the signs were removed and the parks were permanently closed. This has nothing to do with hatred or homophobia, it had to do with protecting children and common sense. Tell me again why this same group should be given Special Protective Status in Royal Oak?
Mark Itall November 27, 2012 at 10:14 PM
It was not an advisory referendum, it was up or down for a tax increase. Failed 2-1.
Mark Itall November 27, 2012 at 10:19 PM
V, your interpretation is correct. The ordinance was rejected, not adopted, so that language does not apply.
Mark Itall November 27, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Paul, Consider that the last behavior, accurately described, is a result of them being marginalized, criminalized and prosecuted.
The Duke of Royal Oak November 28, 2012 at 03:37 AM
The Duke of Royal Oak November 28, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Sending my check in also, Mary. We can identify that hatred and evil are still alive, but cannot "stop them", unfortunatley. It must be a sad existence! Being a devout practicing Catholic, I do not understand the hatred and evil that people use in the name of God,Jesus and religion. Catholicism teaches love and humility!
Paul Nepote November 28, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Ronnie Boy, I sure do understand the contributions sodomites have contributed to our culture. Let me give you two wonderful examples of contributors in the Traverse City area. The first is a well know architect and lover of rare musical instruments, such as the actual piano that George Gerswin performed the first original debut of Rhapsody in Blue on. He also was the founder of the Music House Museum, just a few miles North of TC. Unfortunately for him, he was convicted of continually raping a 13 year old boy. On the day he was to appear in court for sentencing he unbuckled his seat belt and, right in front of the West Side Burger King, accelerated, crossed the center line and hit a Cement Truck head on killing him instantly. He was one of TC's most outstanding gay's at that time. Next we have a very well know Graphic Artist, and founder of Byte Communications. He and his company design signage for city's all over the country. He was a pioneer in the "Way Finding" business, and had orders from major institutions such as colleges, medical centers,shopping malls and so on. He was caught sodomizing two very young boys in the town of Suttons Bay, just North of Traverse City. Oh did I mention he was very active in our local Equality and a big contributor to the local group who convinced the City Commission to pass our Special Gay Rights ordinance. By the way he is now in prison, hopefully learning the truth of " What you do will turn around and bite you in the ass".
Judy J November 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM
I am appalled and disgusted by Mr. Nepote's fixation on sex and his oddly disturbing detailed descriptions of if as if sex is the only thing that defines a relationship. SAD. But you have CROSSED THE LINE by connecting child rape to gay men. Homosexuality and pedophilia and molestation are very different things. Do not spread your bigotry by trying to connect them. I reject your claim of having gay friends as no one could befriend someone who so obviously hates them. Please stay in TC and leave RO alone--I can find another vacation spot that does not include toxic residents. Here's the thing; as much as I loathe your attitude and hatred, I do not hate you (pity, yes), and I will pray every day that you find enough peace within yourself to end this evil rhetoric and get some help toward becoming a compassionate person. Go to church and say a prayer, sir, for God loves all his children even if you do not. You are in my prayers.
Thomas Gagne November 28, 2012 at 01:06 PM
"Catholicism teaches love and humility!" People who haven't read the bible or studied Catholicism shouldn't comment on it.
The Duke of Royal Oak November 28, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Thomas Gagne- Could'nt agree with you more.
Paul Nepote November 28, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Ron, Why don't you get real. I have four Sons and six Grandsons, I guess in your world that makes me a breeder. If you were to rid the world of those who live by natures design, there would not be a next generation. Unfortunately you need breeders to, on occasion, present you homo's with a few sexual deviant replacements. If the majority had their way, someone would actually verify a "Gay Genetic Marker" which would prove your claim that we were all "Born That Way", it sure would boost the business at the abortion clinics.
Paul Nepote November 28, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Royal Oak, Please don't waste your time and money, the State is going to make such ordinances null and void soon. HOUSE BILL No. 5039 We have not lost a thing to Traverse City voters who supported our existing Non-Discrimination Ordinance, as well as in other Michigan cities. Traverse City’s “No Special Rights” group with the help of their friends, the House Republicans, and with the encouragement and support of Gary Glenn (AFA, Michigan) now are in the process of making it illegal for Traverse City and other units of local government to pass or enforce local laws which include “sexual orientation and gender identity”. HB 5039 reads, "A State agency of local government shall not adopt any ordinance, rule, regulation, or policy that includes as a protected class, any classification not specifically included as a protected class under this act, any existing ordinance, rule, regulation, or policy that includes, as a protected class, any classification not specifically included as a protected class under this act is void." So folks, the war rages on. We are going to need all of the citizens who are opposed to Traverse City’s “Gay Special Rights Ordinance”, to support this bill. This ballot will be state wide and not hindered by the boundaries of Traverse City. History shows us that all pro-homosexual agenda items brought to the voters statewide are easily defeated at the ballot box.
The Duke of Royal Oak November 28, 2012 at 09:12 PM
"Thus, the controversy about the Moral Majority arises not only from its views, but from its name which, in the minds of many, seems to imply that only one set of public policies is moral and only one majority can possibly be right." ...... Senator Edward Kennedy
The Duke of Royal Oak November 28, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Paul Nepote, you forgot Jerry Sandusky. I did not seen Penn State closing or heterosexuals being persecuted for the act.
The Duke of Royal Oak November 28, 2012 at 09:21 PM
The attitude of Paul is the same as Hitler and the Nazis, the world stood up against this evil.
Lianne Mathie November 28, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Hey Paul, There's a nice little church group you should join. It's call Westboro Baptist. They would LOVE you.
Lianne Mathie November 28, 2012 at 10:28 PM
Just came across this article, makes for informative reading, always like to know where people come from. I'm not surprised, sadly. http://www.northernexpress.com/michigan/article-912-with-all-my-hate-pau.html
Judy J November 28, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Lianne--Thank you for posting this link; I have done some research on this man which resulted in alarming information, but did not find this. Now I am even more shocked--this certainly explains a lot! It is definitely frightening that this thing exists.
Paul Nepote November 29, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Lianne, I am glad you brought up this hit piece in the northern express, I eluded to this in a earlier post, when I said that the homosexual activist's tried to discredit me with my community. Queer Traverse City Commissioner Jim Carruthers was really pissed when I turned in the signatures on a referendum petition that put the gay special rights ordinance on the ballot. You can believe what you want but you will never know how inaccurate the story was. The only people that got hurt was the Northern Express. The owner apologized to me and allowed me to write a complete editorial and he published it along with a personal "sorry". That hit job helped me raise more money then all my connections with the business community. Even the local newspaper, who is the most gay friendly publication in northern Michigan, commented on the ethics of that publication. Thank you for helping me prove my point, that homosexual political activist's are the most hateful, dishonest,divisive, and desperate people on the face of the earth.
Mr. Smith N. Wesson November 29, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Dude, you lose credibility every time you quote a guy like Ted Kennedy. He should be held accountable for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Never forget the Chappaquidick incident. It's like quoting Josef Mengele.
Mr. Smith N. Wesson November 29, 2012 at 02:18 AM
We're doomed! LOL
The Duke of Royal Oak November 29, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Mr. Smith N. Wesson, With your permission I will quote whom I wish. Dude!
The Duke of Royal Oak November 29, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Lianne- Also thanks for the link. What a sick person. This does not suprise me, this week on Ricki Lake she interviewed the son of Fred Phelps of Westboro church another anti gay radical chrisitian. Fred's two sons escaped from their home to get away from his abuse.
The Duke of Royal Oak November 29, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Oh Dear!
Judy Davids (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 02:11 AM
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