St. Joe Moving Forward On Non-Discrimination Ordinance For LGBTQ Community

A non-discrimination ordinance to protect the LGBTQ community will likely be approved soon by the city of St. Joseph. After hearing from OutCenter director Mary Jo Schnell earlier this month, commissioners Monday night voted to have city staff draft an ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Mayor pro tem Laura Goos talked to Schnell prior to the meeting yesterday.

“She was very concerned about what the local municipality was going to do and just wanted to echo her support again for the NDO and the need for support here locally,” said Goos. She said the OutCenter has had a lot of calls in recent days since the “New York Times” reported the Trump administration is considering defining gender as only biological, essentially trying to legally ban people from identifying as transgender. President Trump has said it’s a very complicated and confusing issue for the military and he thinks by phasing transgender out of existence, he’s “doing the military a great favor.”

The commission also heard from Andy Sawyer after the vote. His son came out as gay eight years ago while in high school, and is now a transgender woman.

“It’s the local level where we’re going to make a difference, and we’re going to make this a safe community for children, my child,” said Sawyer as his voice broke. “So I just want to thank you because I know you’ve all come out in support of this, and it’s intensely personal for me and my family.”

Efforts in the Michigan Legislature to reform the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include the LGBTQ community have failed multiple times, and are also opposed by Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Schuette. The entire St. Joseph City Commission has expressed support for enacting the ordinance, and the city would become the 45th local government in Michigan to have such a provision.

File photo from a vigil outside the OutCenter in June, 2016 following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.