Petitions attempt to halt Jackson non-discrimination ordinance, put it on ballot

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JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — History was made this month in Jackson as the city council approved a non-discrimination ordinance that protects the LGBT community.

However, the move many see as progress could be overturned as groups against the NDO launch a petition drive to stop it from taking effect, and put the matter before voters.

The Jackson City Council approved the ordinance by a vote of 5-2 two weeks ago.

It amends the city’s current non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The addition would make discrimination against LGBT-identifying people for housing, employment, and public accommodation a civil infraction.

That accomplishment for the LGBT community in Jackson is now in jeopardy.

“It’s fired up a lot of folks. They’re willing to work hard again, to stand behind our newly acquired rights in the city of Jackson,” said Nikki Joly, Director of the Jackson Pride Center.

Petitions are out all over town to stop the ordinance from taking effect, and to put the issue before voters.

Several churches and businesses are involved, but Jackson’s catholic churches are big players.

“This was a serious enough issue that it needs to go before all the citizens of Jackson, rather than seven council members,” said Father Tim Nelson of St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church.

The signatures of 342 registered voters who live in the city need to be collected by March 9.

If the city clerk certifies all those signatures, and approves of language on petitions, the ordinance would be stalled until it’s decided by voters.

Father Tim Nelson says while the church doesn’t believe discrimination should be tolerated, the ordinance isn’t fair to everyone.

“What this ordinance is doing is trying to take a subjective feeling and have that protected by a penalty. And I have to accept that person’s subjective feeling. There are enough people who are saying that’s not right,” Nelson said.

The Jackson Pride Center is concerned people are signing the petitions without knowing the facts.

The director wants people to know the ordinance provides exemptions for churches, and has nothing to do with bathrooms.

“Carefully read their petitions. And realize that the miswording or the language used is confusing,” Joly said.

The city says this issue will most likely be voted on in the August election.

“Let them speak, one way or the other, and I am perfectly willing to abide whatever the people decide,” Nelson said.

“Because you have religious freedom does not give you the right to take away somebody’s civil rights,” Joly said.

In researching this story, 6 News became aware of allegations that local politicians were involved in circulating petitions.

Jackson City Councilman Craig Pappin voted against the ordinance.

Pappin says that while he’s against the NDO, he has not been involved in handing out petitions.

6 News also contacted republican State Senator Mike Shirkey about his alleged involvement.

Senator Shirkey says he allowed a group of citizens against the ordinance to meet at his business in Jackson, but he has not been involved in organizing petitions.

Groups in favor of the non-discrimination ordinance are also speaking out.

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce met Tuesday morning and voted almost unanimously to show its continued support of the ordinance.

Stay with 6 News and WLNS.com for updates on this developing story.

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