Press

Ypsilanti, Michigan Voters Uphold Civil Rights

Date: 
May 06, 1998

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) hailed yesterday's victory for gay and lesbian civil rights in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ypsilanti voters upheld a city ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, race and other characteristics. The Task Force considers the vote a significant setback for right-wing groups and their latest strategy of undoing civil rights at the ballot box.

"This is the new trend in anti-gay organizing -- to attack city ordinances and local measures when they are passed with the threat of repeal or referendum," stated NGLTF executive director Kerry Lobel. "Ypsilanti demonstrates that this strategy failed. Our civil rights will not be so easily undone."

Last December, the Ypsilanti City Council passed the ordinance unanimously. The ordinance bans discrimination in housing, employment and city contracts and includes race, disability, and other classifications, along with sexual orientation. It was stayed in February when opponents collected signatures to hold a voter referendum on repeal of the ordinance. The Task Force expects this trend will continue but that it will not be the silver bullet anti-gay groups expected.

The Task Force criticized the organization that led the repeal campaign for their efforts to define equal rights with so-called "special rights." "The opposition called themselves Citizens Opposing Special Treatment, and the people of Ypsilanti didn't buy it. They know that there is nothing special about being treated equally," said Lobel.

According to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, there will be at least one other local civil rights ordinance voted on this year. The South Portland, Maine City Council decided to put the issue directly before voters rather than approve it themselves. The vote will be held later this year. In Fort Collins, Colorado, right-wing groups have collected signatures in an effort to undo that city's recently passed ban on anti-gay discrimination.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.