Jackson prepares to enforce LGBT non-discrimination ordinance

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — History is made in Jackson as the city council approves the extension of a non-discrimination ordinance to protect the LGBT community.

It’s a 20 year battle that ended early Wednesday morning after a marathon city council meeting.

The council approved the non-discrimination ordinance 5-2.

With the ordinance now on the books, 6 News looked at how the city is preparing to enforce it.

It’s now illegal in the city of Jackson to discriminate against anyone for housing, employment, or public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Public Information Officer Will Forgrave says this doesn’t change much of the city government’s day-to-day functions because the framework is already in place.

If there is an issue with LGBT discrimination, complaints must be made within 30 days of the incident to the Human Relations Commission.

“They investigate that claim themselves, and if they think it holds water, they pass it along to the city attorney, who continues that process,” Forgrave said.

The city attorney will investigate both sides of the claim.

If discrimination is found, the offender could be fined hundreds of dollars a day until the issue is resolved.

Forgrave says each case will be handled differently, and not every outcome will be the same.

The ordinance also provides several exemptions.

“Religious organizations, churches, youth groups are completely exempt. They can continue to operate as they see fit,” Forgrave said.

The ordinance also does not require facilities to change rules regarding bathrooms, changing rooms and locker rooms.

42 Michigan cities already have LGBT protections.

Nathan Triplett, the Director of Public Policy and Political Action for Equality Michigan says hefty fines are rare.

“In almost every instance, it’s corrected informally before it gets to any formal process, and that’s exactly what we want,” Triplett said.

Critics say these laws are costly and open cities up to legal trouble.

But Triplett says that’s never been proven, and believes these ordinances help communities grow.

“This has helped send the right kind of message about the type of community they want. It’s helped them retain and attract talent, it’s helped them compete. And it’s been a real asset to their community,” Triplett said.

The ordinance will go into effect March 9.

 

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