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In Royal Oak, human rights law appears headed for ballot


Royal Oak's city clerk has certified the signatures on petitions to force a referendum on a new gay rights ordinance in the Detroit suburb.

Fred Birchard submitted petitions Tuesday with 1,226 signatures seeking repeal of the law that Royal Oak's City Commission approved on a 6-1 vote March 4. The city clerk determined Wednesday that the necessary 746 signatures were valid.

The ordinance would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and other factors. It was set to take effect last month. But opponents circulated petitions to try and block it.

Right now, it's perfectly legal to fire someone or deny them housing because they're gay or lesbian.

“We thought that was wrong, we know there's no federal or state protection and I feel very comfortable that the commission did the right thing,” said Royal Oak City Commissioner Jim Rasor. “I also feel very strongly that voters will do the right thing.”

If enough of the petition signatures are certified, the ordinance will go back to the city commission. The commission can scrap the measure, or put it to a citywide vote. Rasor says he expects the question will go to voters in November.

The commission’s next scheduled meeting is April 15.

Sarah Hulett is Michigan Radio’s Director of Amplify & Longform, helping reporters to do their best work.
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