Greenville student continues to fight for equal rights

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 10:22 am on Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Greenville High School student Justin Barr is asking the city of Greenville and Eureka Township to create a nondiscrimination ordinance. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

GREENVILLE — A Greenville High School student is still working to push the city of Greenville and Eureka Township to consider a non-discrimination ordinance after letters were written against his request.

Justin Barr, who has approached both the city council and the township board to propose the creation of such an ordinance, recently responded to a letter that was sent out by the American Family Association (AFA) of Michigan President Gary Glenn (a former U.S. Senate candidate) to the Greenville City Council, along with media outlets throughout West Michigan.

“On behalf of our many supporters in Greenville, we urge you not to adopt such a discriminatory ordinance, which has proven in other jurisdictions to be used to violate the civil and religious free speech rights of both individuals and cherished community organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Catholic charities and the Salvation Army, and which also poses a threat to the privacy rights of women and children in public restrooms and other public facilities,” Glenn stated in the letter.

However, Barr said his proposed nondiscrimination ordinance is just the opposite.

“Contrary to what the American Family Association may believe, a nondiscrimination ordinance is not a discriminatory and repressive law,” Barr said. “The ordinance seeks to supplement already existing state law so that no citizens can be discriminated against in housing, employment or public accommodations.”

American Family Association

In his letter, Glenn discussed past attempts to have a nondiscrimination ordinance in other cities and the AFA’s role in petitioning those requests.

In 2008, Glenn said the Hamtramck City Council adopted a similar ordinance that was forced to the ballot after the AFA assisted in a citizen-petition drive, which was rejected by the voters.

Glenn mentioned cases in Detroit and Ann Arbor, as well as cases in which employees were fired for violating nondiscrimination rules already in place at establishments like the University of Toledo, Eastern Michigan University and University of Illinois.

“Similarly, if you adopt such a discriminatory ordinance, the American Family Association of Michigan will — as we have in multiple other communities — assist citizens of Greenville in conducting a citizen petition drive with only 315 signatures of registered voters required to allow the people of the city to decide the issue on the ballot,” Glenn said.

Glenn is asking Barr and others urging Greenville to adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance to identify documented examples of individuals in the city who have been denied employment, housing or service in a public accommodation “based on what kind of sex they have.”

“To date, homosexual activists have failed to produce a single example anywhere in Michigan, and we doubt the results will be any different in Greenville,” Glenn stated. “Thus, if the report from a city resident is accurate, you are being asked to adopt a discriminatory solution to a non-existent problem.”

Glenn stated the AFA hopes the city will focus on “pressing challenges,” instead of putting energy into considering a non-discrimination ordinance.

“We respectfully urge you not to even consider adopting such a discriminatory and violative proposal, which is clearly a solution in search of a non-existent problem intended only to advance homosexual activists’ drive to have homosexual behavior and cross-dressing defined by law and endorsed by city government as the moral, social and legal equivalents of immutable characteristics such as race, ethnic background and sex,” Glenn stated.

Barr’s rebuttal

In Barr’s response to the AFA’s letter, he stated a non-discrimination ordinance does nothing more than provide equal rights for all.

“The Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act is in no way, shape or form a repressive law,” Barr said. “It seeks to ensure that no citizens are discriminated against basked on their race, religion, sex, weight, etc., and the proposed ordinance would extend the rights written in the law to include sexual orientation and gender identity. The sole purpose of such an ordinance is to combat discrimination and protect all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, from discriminatory practices that may cost them their house or job.”

Barr said East Lansing was the first city in the nation to protect all of the citizens within the city with such an ordinance more than 40 years ago. Since then, more than 23 municipalities in Michigan have also taken adopted ordinances to stand against unfair treatment.

“Adopting a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity affirms core America values of fairness and equality for all,” Barr said. “It also makes a statement about what kind of city Greenville strives to be, which is a community that values all of its residents and welcomes the contributions of a diverse population.”

Barr questions how a national group like the AFA knows what the residents of Greenville would want in regard to the non-discrimination ordinance and reassured the ordinance request is “locally grown, locally led and locally supported by the grassroots movement started by none other than a high school student.”

“I am confident that the city council will not make a decision like this lightly and look into all sides of the issue before voting in favor of protecting all Greenville citizens fairly and equally under the law,” Barr said.

Other letters

Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, The Daily News obtained other letters submitted to the Greenville City Council and Eureka Township Board regarding Barr’s nondiscrimination ordinance request.

Liberty Baptist Church Pastor Mike Austin wrote a letter to the township board and sent the same one to the city council, followed by a second letter to the city council about two weeks later.

The first letter dated June 28 stated passing such an ordinance would protect “felons.”

After reciting a Michigan law “Crime against nature or sodomy,” which states “any person who shall commit the abominable and detestable crime against nature either with mankind or with any animal shall be guilty of a felony…,” Austin asked what would be next?

“Will the city of Greenville also write an ordinance of nondiscrimination toward all car thieves, or bank robbers, or murderers, or other felons?” Austin asked. “All of those people are already protected from being discriminated against, but to write a specific ordinance of nondiscrimination for them based upon their crimes, would be seen as promoting their crimes.”

Austin also stated that the lifestyle the nondiscrimination ordinance would protect against is harmful to the person’s health and to the health of those who live in Greenville.

“Although some people in the United States are trying very fervently now to promote this alternative lifestyle, the medical facts are very clear and cannot be denied, that this lifestyle is very hazardous to a person’s health, and endangers people around them with health hazards,” Austin stated. “According to the latest statistics from the center for disease control, the group they call MSM — men who have sex with men — in the United States are showing a rate of new HIV diagnoses at a level that is 44 times higher than that of other men.”

Austin ended the letter by asking both governmental bodies to not consider the non-discrimination ordinance.

“Please do not make your decision in this matter based upon emotions or emotionally-charged promotions of this lifestyle,” he said. “If we really care about our young people, and for all of our citizens, the leaders of the city of Greenville should be making ordinances (that) discourage the lifestyles of homosexuality or sodomy — not favor it.”

In a second letter the Greenville City Council dated July 12, Austin brought new points forward to discourage the city from considering the ordinance. He said if the ordinance were to pass, “a transgender boy that claims he is a girl, (can) use the girl’s bathroom at all schools and they will not be able to stop him.” Austin stated the same for locker rooms and school situations involving staff and students using the same bathrooms.

Another concern of Austin’s is “no one at school will be able to challenge a person’s gender or how often it changes.” He noted all of his points would not only apply to schools, but to businesses as well.

“Those people who are claiming a new group status of LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgenders — and are demanding non-discrimination rights, are just beginning to exercise their new-found powers and they are delighted,” Austin wrote. “…All of that insanity starts with an ordinance that recognizes certain people as a new group and gives them group rights of non-discrimination. They already have rights as individuals — if you acknowledge them as a group, and give them rights, insanity will eventually prevail and the rights of our wholesome families will be trampled upon”

Most recent ruling

According to WWMT-Channel 3, Kalamazoo Township passed a nondiscrimination ordinance on July 22, which models the same ordinance in the city of Kalamazoo and Union Township.

The article states Kalamazoo Township started the process in 2011 and protects against discrimination due to gender identity or sexual orientation.

The next Greenville City Council meeting is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The next Eureka Township meeting will be 7 p.m. Aug. 12 at the township hall.

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