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Squaring off

The Midland-based American Family Association of Michigan wants to stop Royal Oak officials from passing an ordinance protecting gays and lesbians from workplace and housing discrimination.

This follows the City Commission’s unanimous decision to have a committee study whether Royal Oak needs such an ordinance. In a letter last month, AFA of Michigan spokesman Gary Glenn questioned "illegitimately" granting minority status to gays, and called homosexuality "an immoral violation of God’s law" and more.

Should Royal Oak pass such an ordinance, Glenn says, AFA is willing to help call for a referendum on a city charter amendment that would "prohibit the granting of special legal class status based on sexual orientation." The Royal Oak city clerk’s office says putting such a charter amendment to a vote in November 2000 would require the collection of about 2,500 signatures by August.

Proponents of human rights ordinances that include protections based on sexual orientation say homosexuals aren’t asking for special privileges. Because homosexuals aren’t protected under state or federal anti-bias laws, it is especially important that they be protected from discrimination at the local level, proponents argue.

A petition suspended Ferndale’s newly passed anti-bias ordinance, including protections based on sexual orientation, late last year. The issue goes to voters Feb. 22.

Names for Nate

Names for Nate – The group Fans of Fieger has gathered nearly a thousand signatures on a petition seeking leniency in the Jan. 13 sentencing of Nathaniel Abraham and asking public officials to nix laws allowing juveniles to be prosecuted as adults.

Don Lemaire, an addictions counselor living in State College, Pa., wrote an introduction for the petition, which asks that Abraham be released with time served.

"It’s seeking leniency for Nathan and to draw attention to the absurdity that we charge kids as adults and hold them accountable as adults, even though the way we hold adults accountable isn’t working anyway."

Lemaire, who says he has worked as a consultant for various school districts, says he connected with petitioner Christine Bush of Chicago via a Court TV message board on the Internet, leading to the petition at www.fansoffieger.com. Along with the signatures, says Lemaire, there were hundreds of comments from as far away as France, India and Australia.

Lemaire says people were "frustrated and awe-struck that the United States is so naive" in terms of trying children as adults.

Lemaire says copies of the petition have been sent to various officials including the judge, Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca, Geoffrey Fieger and Gov. John Engler.

Another acquittal

Ending what some dubbed a "witch hunt," a Washtenaw County jury on Jan. 6 acquitted Robin Alvarez, the last of several felony defendants charged following a protest at the May 1998 Ku Klux Klan rally in Ann Arbor. Alvarez, a 46-year-old local jewelry artist, was charged with inciting a riot, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for chanting such phrases as "take down the fence" – a reference to cyclone fencing used to protect Klan members who spoke from City Hall.

The rally was shut down after protesters launched a barrage of rocks and other objects at the Klan. According to Miranda Massie, attorney for Alvarez, "the jurors who I spoke with ... felt the prosecution’s case was extremely weak. ... It was the Klan’s speech that got people pushing and pulling on the fencing, not the speech of any counterdemonstrator."

Although a misdemeanor assault charge remains from the rally, Massie says the alleged victim has asked that the charges be dropped.

Of 20 people charged, prosecutors obtained one conviction. Thomas C. Doxey, 22, of East Lansing was convicted of felony assault for throwing a rock that hit a police officer. Massie is seeking a new trial for him.

Representatives of the prosecutor’s office did not return calls for comment.

Woodward Magazine detour?

After only four issues – is Detroit’s promsing literary and arts publication, Woodward Magazine, foundering? Last week, freelance writer Louis Aguilar says that Woodward’s managing editor Sarah Jeanne Peters killed a story he was to write because, in his words, "Their main investor pulled out" and they weren’t sure they could continue. Aguilar says, "They were going to give themselves 30 days to find a new investor."

Peters and publisher and editor Leif A. Gruenberg did not return Metro Times’ phone calls.

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