Macomb board OKs gender, sex protections for workers

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Mount Clemens — Commissioners passed Thursday a new policy providing protection for county workers against discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation after an hour of spirited discussion..

The policy passed 8-5 despite threats from some in the audience that commissioners who voted in favor would feel the fallout at the ballot box.

Nicki Brandenburg of Macomb Township said neither the county nor the board has received complaints about discrimination and called the policy a “waste of time.”

She reminded commissioners who supported the policy that residents will speak at the ballot box. The full board is up for re-election in the fall.

“To the commissioners ... who opposed this ordinance: Thank you very much,” Brandenburg said. “And for the others who haven’t, I guess there is some recourse and we will see that recourse in November.”

Jazmine Early of Sterling Heights agreed.

“I know it takes a lot of courage for you guys to say no when are surrounded with people and they are against you,” Early said. “The residents are with you and more importantly God is with you.”

The Rev. Ric Beattie of Renaissance Unity in Warren said he went to the meeting to show religion is about inclusion and acceptance.

“I am an openly gay man and the older I get, the less I am looking for anybody to tell me it is OK for me to be who I am,” he said.

Commissioner Fred Miller, who sponsored the policy, agreed with other board members to table a vote on whether the new rule should include county contractors.

“I want to make sure that we promote non-discrimination, but we don’t upend existing service providers,” Miller said. “We want to make sure we do this right.”

Macomb County became the latest municipality in Michigan to approve gender and sex orientation protections.

Sterling Heights became in June the first community in the county to expand its nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This week, the City Council repealed the ordinance after opponents collected 6,000 signatures.

Julie Bondy of Sterling Heights, a supporter of the county’s new policy, said the repeal of the ordinance was disappointing and if cities and the county don’t support their LGBT citizens then they are forced to hide and deny who they are.

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