Royal Oak hot potato

Nov 29, 2000 at 12:00 am

When News Hits learned that a majority of Royal Oak’s city commissioners voted last week to let its residents decide whether they want a human-rights ordinance that would prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians, smiles illuminated our faces. But that was before City Commissioner Laura Harrison cleared things up.

After spending months researching the issue with community folks and drafting a proposed ordinance, Harrison put it before the commission for a vote. Hours of debate and public comment ensued before Commissioner Tom Kuhn suggested putting the issue before the public. Seeing a way to duck making a decision, the commission voted 4-3 to let the city’s residents decide. But the ruse here, friends, is that the commissioners could have voted in a legally binding ordinance that really protects gays and lesbians from discrimination. The voter referendum has no real teeth.

“It is a nonbinding advisory question,” says City Clerk Mary Haverty.

The issue will eventually return to the commission for a final vote, she says. But that could take as long as a year.

“It’s a waste of time,” says Harrison, who views Kuhn’s amendment as a way of delaying the commission vote.

Though the Triangle Foundation supports a human-rights ordinance in Royal Oak, the gay-and-lesbian advocacy group does not want the public to vote on the issue, according to policy director Sean Kosofsky. The group fears that the issue will divide the community as it did in Ferndale, which voted a similar measure down earlier this year. Kosofsky also says that the vote will not gauge true public opinion because outside groups will politicize the issue and confuse residents.

“We would rather the commission vote it down than put it to the people,” says Kosofsky.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]