August 13, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Groups push to put Sterling Heights non-discrimination ordinance on ballot

Sterling Heights— Opponents of the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, have filed a petition seeking to put it up for public vote.

Steven J. Guitar, city spokesman, said the City Clerk’s office is validating the petition signatures and the process could be completed by Saturday. Until then, the city will refrain from further comment, he said.

He said he couldn’t confirm the number of signatures collected.

In June, Sterling Heights become the first Macomb County community to expand its non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Thirty-six communities in Michigan have adopted similar ordinances.

Councilmen Doug Skrzyniarz and Michael Taylor suggested adopting the ordinance. Mayor Richard Notte, Skrzyniarz, Taylor and City Manager Mark Vanderpool researched the ordinances adopted by other communities and crafted one for Sterling Heights.

The City Council OK’d the measure 7-0.

Skrzyniarz said one group collecting signatures for the petition is called the Sterling Heights Referendum Petition. The group’s Faceboook page is unavailable.

The Ferndale-based Affirmations, which serves people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, supported Sterling Heights in its efforts to get the ordinance passed. Cassandra Varner, Affirmations spokeswoman, said she’s confident if the ordinance is up for public vote it will be successful.

“Clearly this is something that the community advocated for in the first place and this is something that the city council voted in favor for,” Varner said.

Varner said a similar ordinance was up for vote in Royal Oak and it passed in 2013.

Skrzyniarz said he and others went to the Sterling Heights Library earlier this month where opponents were collecting signatures to ensure residents knew what they were signing.

“City Council debated this issue and it is our job to take issues, break them down, research them, ask for input from the public and make an educated decision on what we think is best for the city,” Skrzyniarz said. “We know from basic polling that the vast majority of the public supports what we are doing.”

Skrzyniarz added: “Let’s say this comes up for a vote in an election where there is a very low turnout. Yes, it is a democracy, but voting doesn’t always represent exactly what everybody wants.”

Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, written and passed in 1976, bans discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight and marital status, it doesn’t include sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and HIV-status.