Earlier this year, the City Council of Jackson, Michigan passed a non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) that prohibits discrimination against anyone for housing, employment, or public accommodation based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The vote was 5-2. Shortly thereafter, a local group of Jackson residents, supported by clergy in local Catholic churches, started to circulate petitions to rescind the NDO and put the civil rights of members of the LGBTQ community up for a vote. Anti-LGBTQ bigot Jeffrey Feahr turned in the petitions to the City Clerk and brought the media with him. However, due to multiple deficiencies in the petitions, the group Jackson Together asked the City Clerk Randy Wrozek to invalidate the petitions. He refused to do so Jackson Together went to court and, today, they won.
Jackson’s NDO is now law.
Before today’s court hearing, Wrozek attempted to hire an outside attorney to represent him. He brought on the notorious anti-LGBTQ attorney, David Kallman. Kallman is part of the Orwellian-named law firm Great Lakes Justice Firm that has a long history of fighting against the civil rights of people in the LGBTQ community. Kallman and his colleagues spend an enormous amount of time spreading their intolerant views and fighting any attempt to enforce civil rights protections for LGBTQ people. A PrideSource piece by Todd Heywood in 2013 shows just how horrible this group is. Here’s a snippet about one of Kallman’s colleagues at the Great Lakes Justice Center, William Wagner:
In 2009, Wagner was involved in opposing LGBT equality in Europe, where he used substantially similar language related to Delta’s proposed law and the E.U. proposal. That argument was made on video and in print. Wagner also co-authored a 2007 paper on pro-life issues with former assistant attorney general for Michigan Andrew Shirvell. The brief was published by Americans United for Life. Shirvell came under fire, and was ultimately fired by then Attorney General Mike Cox for his stalking and blogging of openly gay University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong. Armstrong filed suit against Shirvell, and won a $4.5 million ruling. This spring, Wagner was a featured speaker at a conference in Trinidad which also featured Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage, a Southern Poverty Law Center identified anti-gay group.
But Wagner’s animosity towards minorities does not stop with LGBT people. Wagner was a featured speaker in May of 2012 at a conference event sponsored by anti-gay former state lawmaker and current Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema on Sharia law. (In this video, Wagner argues recognizing Muslim religious beliefs and creating exceptions for their values violates the U.S Constitution – something his own ministry is arguing should be allowed for Christians in relation to homosexuality. He has also published similar arguments on the Family Research Council’s website – another group recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group.
The City Council filed a restraining order to prevent Wrozek from having Kallman represent him (he works for the City and has a City attorney for that) and, in his decision today, the judge upheld that order. He also shot down a motion Kallman presented to intervene in the case on behalf of two anonymous, unnamed petition circulators. Here’s the judge’s order regarding the petitions and the NDO:
These are the relevant parts:
4. The Petitions violated state and local election law and therefore were invalid.
5. Despite the invalidity of the Petitions, the Clerk issued a statement purporting to certify the Petitions. The Clerk’s certification of the Petitions was invalid. Accordingly, the Clerk’s finding that the NDO was suspended lacked legal basis. […]
[T]he Petitions submitted on or about March 2, 2017 are invalid; … [T]he Clerk’s certification of the Petitions was invalid and contrary to law; …[T]he NDO shall not be suspended and shall take effect immediately. It is further ordered that this case is dismissed with predjudice.
That last bit means Wrozek and his pals can’t come back at this and try again. They may be able to appeal the decision regarding the mysterious, unnamed petition circulators but their chances of success wane with each step they take and they have now been exposed for the creeps they are. The true test for the residents of Jackson will come next November when three of the five Council members who supported the NDO will be up for reelection. My guess is that Jackson will be fine and not show itself to support bigotry and hatred toward their LGBTQ friends and neighbors.
But, for today, this is a huge victory for reasonable and compassionate people and we should celebrate.