In early February of this year, the City Council in Jackson, Michigan approved a non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) that prohibits discrimination against anyone for housing, employment, or public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s essentially a move that extends basic civil rights provided to most Michiganders under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to Michigan citizens in the LGBTQ community. The vote was 5-2.
The move outraged some Jackson residents and, supported by clergy in local Catholic churches including Father Tim Nelson of St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, a group of them set out to put the issue of civil rights for the LGBTQ community up for a vote in the next election. Opposition to the NDO is ironically being pitched by people like Fr. Nelson and Fr. Tim MacDonald of Queens as a way to restore civil rights NON-LGBTQ people.
The petition drive was led by a man named Jeffrey Feahr who turned in nearly 700 signatures (342 valid signatures are needed) to the local clerk and brought the media with him when he did it:
Freahr has a notorious history as a homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic bigot on Facebook. His Facebook page is a cesspool of posts that mock and deride a wide array of minority groups and is riddled with references to “snowflakes”, a term he uses derogatorily when refering to anyone who disagrees with his extreme, bigoted views.
After the NDO was passed, Feahr posted several comments on Facebook referring to gays and lesbians as “turds”, “alt left liberal pukes,” and “idiots.” He claims not to care “whom someone has sex with in the privacy of their own home” but is opposing a law that would allow someone to actually rent or buy that home even if the landlord or seller was opposed to their sexuality or gender identity. He also says gays can “hump chickens”, if they want.
Here is some of Feahr’s more odious effluvient:
Rev. Cynthia Landrum of Universalist Unitarian Church of East Liberty, a supporter of the NDO and co-founder of the pro-NDO group Jackson Together, called on Feahr to apologize and remove his offensive comments. “As a city, we should send a message to the rest of Michigan that says Jackson is welcoming to our LGBT friends and neighbors. We should not let the incendiary words and bullying actions of a few public figures speak for our entire community,” Rev. Landrum said in a statement. “As a religious leader, I ask that others in the faith community call on Mr. Feahr to apologize for his remarks and delete his incendiary posts.”
So far, none of her colleagues in the clergy who oppose the NDO have stepped up to call out Feahr on his harmful and disgusting comments.
Supporters of the NDO are questioning the petitions and believe that they were gathered using false information. Petition gatherers were overheard saying that this is a law that allows transgender people to GASP! use the restroom of their choice (it’s not) and that it impacts churches and other places of worship (it doesn’t.) In fact, very little will change in the day to day lives of Jacksonians other than giving LGBTQ people legal standing if they are discriminated against:
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.
If the petition signatures are validated, the issue will likely go before voters in August. It’s offensive that the civil rights of ANY Americans are subject to a vote and it is a classic example of the “tyranny of the majority” that Founding Father John Adams warned us about. It’s beyond ironic that people wrapping themselves in nationalism and patriotism and religion would resort to this rather than embracing the idea that ALL Americans deserve equal protection under the law.
[CC image credit: Photographing Travis | Flickr]