By Jordan Goltz
Meridian Times staff writer
MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP- It is no longer legal in Meridian Township to discriminate against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered after the board of trustees passed the Human Relations Ordinance on a 6-1 vote at Monday night’s board meeting.
Members of the LGBT community gathered at the meeting to support the ordinance.
The ordinance was introduced in July and brought up in several subsequent meetings. It outlaws discrimination or harassment against any residents, regardless of their sexuality. Meridian Township resident and LGBT rights supporter Joel Meredith spoke to the board about what this ordinance would mean.
“Some may say it’s less important because we’re not talking about a statewide scope, but rather one of lesser scale,” said Meredith. “For those of us in the LGBT community, however, every step forward or backward is significant.”
Meredith and his partner moved to the greater Lansing area this year. Meredith explained that it has been a step up from Calvin College, where classmates insinuated that gay people did not belong on the college campus.
“Approving this ordinance would send a very loud message to the LGBT community,” said Meredith. “It tells us that the community is behind us and supports us. It tells us that Meridian Township is a good place to live and work, where we will be treated equally and fairly, just the same as everyone else.”
If convicted, part of this ordinance would require the offender to pay a fine, with the maximum fine amount of $500. Trustee Milton Scales was the only one of the seven board members opposed. He argued for stronger penalties.
“This is not keeping somebody in a job. If somebody is stupid enough to fire you for your sexual orientation, they will easily write a $500 check,” said Scales. “This is an effort to do the right thing, the wrong way.”
Scales said that this level of government is not where this issue should be.
“The State Legislature is where this point should take place at,” said Scales. “The fines are only going up to $500. This is still feel good, this is still symbolic.”
Trustee Angela Wilson said she has always supported the ordinance. She said that the township board has worked to create a rich and vibrant community to live and work in, including a community that celebrates the diversity of its residents.
“This is something that we have all worked very hard on,” said Wilson. “We have had overwhelming support from our community, and I am just happy and proud to say that I am supporting the introduction of this and I look forward to moving forward in Meridian Township.”
Wilson, along with Meredith and others from the LGBT community, left the meeting with smiles.
“I want my future to be here,” said Meredith.