Pleasant Ridge commission passes human rights ordinance

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published April 16, 2013


PLEASANT RIDGE — Without much opposition from the community, the Pleasant Ridge City Commission unanimously voted to pass a human rights ordinance April 9 during the City Commission meeting.

The human rights ordinance, which goes into effect April 24, prohibits anyone from discriminating against another person in regards to “employment, housing, public accommodations and public services on the basis of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, age, height or weight, martial status, sexual orientation, familial status, HIV status, national origin, physical or mental disability or gender identity.”

The ordinance, which was introduced by City Commissioner Jason Krzysiak earlier this year, was met with mostly favorable opinions in the time since its introduction to the April 9 vote, according to comments at the meeting and City Manager Sherry Ball. Krzysiak said passing the ordinance was an “easy” task for the commissioners.

“What this ordinance does is simple: It makes sure all the citizens of Pleasant Ridge are afforded the same protection against discrimination as every other member of this community,” Krzysiak said. “This is a decision that, for me, is very easy. This vote is only easy because it matches so completely the spirit of Pleasant Ridge.”

Following in the footsteps of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, which prohibited similar but not all acts of discrimination, Krzysiak said 37 years has been long enough for sexual orientation not to be included, and it starts at the city level.

“Over our nation’s history, there has been a gradual march toward more inclusive protections for its citizens in housing, employment and public accommodations and that march continues in communities across our nation with local municipalities leading the way in making sure all our citizens are protected from the debilitating and demoralizing effects of discrimination,” Krzysiak said.

“This is not about bequeathing special rights on any one group, but insuring all citizens of a community are treated the same. Just as it is wrong to deny employment because of one’s religion, it is also wrong to deny employment because of one’s sexual orientation.”

By a 4-0 vote, with Mayor Ralph Castelli absent from the meeting, Pleasant Ridge became the 22nd municipality in the state with such a human rights ordinance. Offenders could be fined up to $500, plus the costs of investigation and prosecution. Private clubs, religious and private educational institutions and private residences are exempt.

Resident Jane Makulski was the only one of a handful of public speakers to have an issue with the ordinance, though it was with the wording and not what the ordinance will do. Makulski wished the ordinance would be broadened to include other diseases outside of HIV.

“I believe in this ordinance, and I also feel it is good for a community no matter how open a community may be to various people in this world,” she said. “But I would personally like to see it broadened to include other diseases. There are people who have arthritis so badly that they become twisted and crippled, but it doesn’t mean they can’t work or wouldn’t make a good neighbor.

“I don’t want anyone to think they are singling anyone out for a particular illness or ignoring anyone with a particular illness. That is my concern.”

City officials said physical and mental disabilities are included in the ordinance and outlined in the six-page agenda packet available to the public at City Hall.

Victor Walker, of Ferndale, was in attendance at the meeting to show his support of the ordinance, despite not living in Pleasant Ridge. Along with voicing his support for HIV’s inclusion in the actual wording of the ordinance, he wanted to show his appreciation to the city.

“In America, all our ordinances for human rights have been an afterthought; whether it is for women or blacks or people with disabilities, they always say there is a time to come back to it,” Walker said. “Right now with your ordinance, you have the opportunity to be ahead of the curve and say we choose now that we protect every person in this world. I applaud you for considering this and if you do believe in equality, you will pass this.”

Royal Oak was to become the 22nd municipality with an ordinance of this kind after its City Commission passed a similar measure in March. However, petitioners opposing the ordinance blocked it from taking effect and city officials were to decide April 15, after press time, to put it up for a public vote in November or rescind it.

Commissioner Frank Rubino spoke out in favor of the ordinance before the vote April 9 and responded to criticism that he was against it by clarifying his questioning of the ordinance.

“All I did was ask the question why, because if an instance happened in this city that we didn’t know about — if it did — we wanted to know about it,” Rubino said. “In my time being here, I have never found anybody to discriminate against anybody for anything. I wondered if this was being pushed through because something happened.”

Ball said residents of Pleasant Ridge have the right to file a petition on the ordinance up to 45 days after the April 9 meeting, and 15 percent of the registered voters would need to sign the petition, or about 300 residents, to bring it back to the City Commission.