Jackson LGBT protection becomes law after petitions ruled invalid

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s a big win for the LGBT community in Jackson as the city’s non-discrimination ordinance is law once again.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the ordinance that came to be known the NDO.

The effort started to accelerate in February, when the Jackson City Council first approved the ordinance.

It made discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity a civil infraction when it comes to housing, employment, and public accommodation.

But then, several weeks later, members of some local churches and other residents launched a petition drive to block it.

In early March, the petition signatures were turned in and certified by the city clerk.

That move sent the NDO back to the council.

In the meantime, a group in favor of the NDO brought a lawsuit against the city of Jackson and the city clerk claiming the petitions were not properly vetted.

Months of push and pull culminated in a court hearing Tuesday morning at the Jackson County Courthouse.

It was the first hearing in a lawsuit between the city of Jackson and the pro-NDO group Jackson Together.

The city came to this court battle ready to make peace.

“We’re willing to enter into the order,” said Jackson City Attorney Bethany Vujnov.

Last week, the city council voted to dump petitions blocking the non-discrimination ordinance and work with Jackson Together to resolve the issue.

“The city of Jackson is for equality, and not for discrimination,” Vujnov said.

Jackson Together says they found several flaws with the petitions, claiming they were even tampered with after being filed.

“Why would the clerk become a partisan in the circulation process?” said John Pirich, attorney for Jackson Together.

City Clerk Andrew Wrozek admitted to 6 News that he signed one of those petitions as a citizen.

But after the city council issued an order to invalidate the petitions, Wrozek refused and even hired his own lawyer to defend the petitions.

“The city clerk seems to think that he has some inherent power to override the city council’s well-thought-out decisions,” Vujnov said. “He’s not the king of Jackson, he doesn’t wear a crown. The city council runs this town.”

Judge Thomas Wilson made the ultimate decision.

“The petitions are invalid. And I am going to approve the agreement between Jackson Together and the city of Jackson,” Wilson said.

Supporters of the NDO broke out in applause.

Since no other petitions were turned in before the deadline, the non-discrimination ordinance is restored.

It’s a relief to people fighting for LGBT protection who exchanged hugs outside the courtroom.

“Finally, after 20 years of work, our NDO goes into effect. It’s a really happy day for the city of Jackson, this is something we’ve been needing for a long time,” said Rev. Cynthia Landrum, a member of Jackson Together.

David Kallman, who attempted to represent the city clerk in court, maintains his would-be client properly handled the petitions.

Kallman says he plans to help petitioners fight back.

“There’s a lot of options. Obviously there’s a possibility of appeal, but look, almost 1,000 citizens in Jackson signed these petitions, they can start an initiative tomorrow and have this ordinance repealed,” Kallman said.

The NDO is now law, making it a civil infraction to discriminate against the LGBT community when it comes to housing, employment and public accommodation.

Violating the civil infraction can result in hefty fines.

The ordinance provides exemptions for churches and religious organizations, and does not require any facility to alter bathrooms and locker rooms.

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JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) – Earlier today a judge ruled that the petitions filed to stop the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance in Jackson are invalid, allowing the ordinance to go into effect.

The case went before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wilson after the group Jackson Together filed a lawsuit against City Clerk Andrew Wrozek and the city of Jackson, citing problems with how the petitions were verified.

The judge ruled to toss the petitions because they were not properly certified by the city clerk. On Friday, the city council voted to settle the case with Jackson Together and allow the NDO to stand.

The city council approved the ordinance in February to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation.

The NDO is now allowed to go into effect because petitions to stop it needed to be handed in before March 9.

No other petitions were submitted to the clerk’s office and verified before the cut-off date.

The city of Jackson has released a statement, saying the ordinance is now law in the city.

In March, several area residents and Christian churches launched a petition drive to block the NDO.

They wanted the council to choose between scrapping the ordinance, or allowing the issue to go before voters.

However, the lawsuit from Jackson Together came down before the council could reach an agreement.

An attorney at the court hearing who claims to represent two anonymous individuals who were behind the petitions says they will continue to fight to overturn the ordinance.

We will have more details and reaction to this developing news on 6 News at 5.

We welcome thoughts and comments from our viewers. We ask that everyone keep their remarks civil and respectful. Postings that contain profanity, racist, or potentially libelous remarks will be deleted. We will delete any commercial postings, as well.

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