LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Three members of the Lansing City Council Monday night raised concerns about potential discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community by The Lansing City Rescue Mission.
The concerns were raised during a public hearing on a proposal to rezone two parcels of land on Kalamazoo St. to allow the shelter to expand its housing offerings beyond its three current facilities.
At issue is a statement of faith which employees, volunteers and board members are asked to sign. Specifically, that document states sexuality can only be expressed in the context of a marriage between one man and one woman. Any violations, including homosexuality and being transgender, can result in suspension of an employee, board member or volunteer.
After reading the provision, First Ward Councilmember Ryan Kost raised concerns.
“Is that a violation of the Human Rights Ordinance?” Kost asked.
Patricia Spitzley, an at-large member of the council and chair of the Development and Planning Committee, says the concerns about discrimination and the requirement for people sit through a sermon in order to receive services are “a concern.” However, she said, the council cannot take those concerns into account while considering rezoning requests.
Fourth Ward Councilmember Brian Jackson says he is aware the doctrinal faith statement cannot be taken into consideration, but he called on the agency to revisit the policies.
“It’s hard to support all of the good causes you do with this,” Jackson says.
Activists, including the Lansing Area AIDS Network, have criticized the agency, claiming it discriminates against people with medical conditions or disabilities as well as the LGBTQ+ community. The agency has denied those claims of discrimination.
Leadership from two other homeless agencies – Haven House and Advent House – supported the move to expand services, despite “differences in philosophy.”
One employee of the Mission, Jessica Carole, says she signed the agreement.
“We don’t turn people away for being gay or transgender,” Carole said. “Some of our favorite people are.”
The proposal to rezone the properties in question was sent back to the committee, which meets Wednesday at City Hall. It will come back to Council for a final decision in two weeks.