City Commissioners in St. Joseph, Michigan will hear a second reading on a ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity tonight.
The non-discrimination ordinance would protect residents and workers within the city of St. Joseph from discrimination based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s something that Michigan’s Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act does not do.
“If the state legislature can’t provide for us, we will provide for us,” said Mary Jo Schnell, the director of OutCenter an LGBTQ advocacy and community group based in Benton Harbor.
St. Joe is not the first municipality in Michigan to have such an ordinance, there are more than 40. But, it is the first in southwest Michigan.
These ordinances don’t cover everything. Laura Goos is a commissioner in St. Joe and one of the champions of the ordinance,“On the cons list, we know that it doesn’t protect people outside of our city limits.”
But Schnell said the ordinance is a big step. “I think the majority of people, if not 100 percent of the, not only LGBT community but their families and their allies and friends, it means the world to them.”
Schnell and Goos said they’ve only gotten positive feedback and are confident it will pass. If the ordinance passes on second reading it will go into effect in 10 days on March 21st.