Gay Rights Takes a Step Backwards in Sterling Heights

STERLING HEIGHTS, MI – A nondiscrimination ordinance was passed only three months ago in Sterling Heights.  On September 16th, 2014 it was repealed by the City Council.rainbowflag  Little has been said about this issue, until now.

It became a controversial ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations when former Sterling Heights Councilman Paul Smith opposed it.  Smith set out to obtain signatures to have the issue put to the voters in the November election.

“I’d like to start off by congratulating the people of Sterling Heights for this fantastic victory, a victory of the people,” said Paul Smith, after the ordinance was repealed.

Paul Smith is himself controversial to say the least.  He is a member of the Tea Party.  Smith backed comments that were made by former Troy Mayor Janice Daniels who posted this status on Facebook prior to entering the mayor’s office: “I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”  Daniels was thrown out of the mayors office in a Recall vote in November of 2012.

Paul Smith also got a visit from the Secret Service after a YouTube video that surfaced of him holding signs depicting violent illustrations of the impaled head of President Barack Obama and then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm with a noose around her neck during a Tea Party rally in 2009.

Smith was escorted out of a car dealership in September of 2013 after complaining about political signs supporting a tax increase for police and fire. At that time Russell Maisano, general manager of Sterling Heights Dodge on Van Dyke Avenue, who filed a police report, said Smith barged into the dealership and “acted like an ass,” demanding to know who authorized the three signs on dealership property endorsing the 2.5-mill tax increase proposal by the city’s police officers and firefighters.

According to City Clerk Mark Carufel, approximately 5,858 signatures were submitted by petitioners Aug. 6, although only 5,180 were determined to be valid, which was 678 signatures short of the number required by the City Charter to force the City Council to reconsider the non-discrimination ordinance.

“In accordance with City Charter, additional petition signatures were filed with the city clerk on Sept. 3,” Carufel said. “After examining the supplemental signatures, I have certified that a sufficient number (more than 5,858) of registered electors of the city have signed the petition.”

According to Carufel, the presentation of a valid petition suspends operation of the non-discrimination ordinance and required that the City Council immediately reconsider it.

Upon reconsideration, the council has the option to repeal the non-discrimination ordinance in its entirety.

“If the non-discrimination ordinance is not repealed it its entirety, the City Council is required under City Charter to submit the question of whether or not it shall become effective to a vote of the electors of the city of Sterling Heights,” Carufel said.

The council opted to repeal the ordinance in its entirety with a 5-0 vote after receiving input on the issue from nearly two dozen speakers.

During a segment on Fox 2’s Let It Rip on Sunday, September 21st, 2014, Sterling Heights Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Taylor who supports the ordinance and former City Council Member Paul Smith who is an opponent of the law were featured.

Paul Smith is noted to not answer questions directed at him about discrimination.

Supporters of LGBTQ rights should consider making Sterling Heights the next battle ground in Michigan.  A boycott of Sterling Heights would be a good first start.

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