McMillin bill sparks protest

When state Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) showed up for constituent office hours at Rochester Hills City Hall Monday, he was greeted by a small group of protesters shouting “Shame on you.”

The protesters carried signs opposing a bill McMillin introduced in the state House. If enacted, it would prohibit local communities and schools from offering civil-rights protections to the gay and lesbian community.

House Bill 5039 seeks to amend the 36-year-old Elliot-Larson Act which, since 1976, has outlawed discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and education based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight and familial or marital status. McMillin’s bill, which was introduced In October, would add a section prohibiting any local authority from extending civil-rights protections to other groups. It would also repeal any such regulations already in place. The bill covers all divisions of state government, as well as counties, municipalities and school districts. It would prohibit local ordinances, policy and rules.

Several of the protesters attended McMillin’s office hours and the Rochester Hills City Council meeting later Monday night. There, they urged council to pass a resolution opposing McMillan’s bill, calling it an issue of local control as well as civil rights and economic viability.

“It galls me to think that such legislation has been presented by a state representative in our area,” said Hills resident Linda Davis-Kirksey, who described herself as a married grandmother. “House Bill 5039 is the total antithesis of what our city is all about.”

Ryan LeClerc, a law student and former member of the city’s Youth Council who identified himself as gay, said the bill sends a message that some people are not welcome.

“This could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for a lot of talented young people,” he said “What is the next politician going to come into office and do? What am I going to lose next?”

Rochester Hills has no local civil-rights ordinance. Most councilmen seemed unsure as to why they were being asked to act and said they needed time to consider the matter.

“Speaking for Rochester Hills, we do not practice any discrimination of any sort, nor do we tolerate any discrimination,” council President Greg Hooper said.

Only Councilman Ravi Yalamanchi spoke in support of the request. He asked Hooper to put the item on the next meeting’s agenda.

“This is taking the nation 60 years back,” he said. ”I strongly oppose HB 5039 and condemn it in the strongest form. And I ask my colleagues to stand up. … There is no place for discrimination in the city of Rochester Hills.”

McMillin said he believes local ordinances that extend civil rights protections to the gay community are discriminatory. HB 5039 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. Its chairman is House speaker pro tem John Walsh (R-Livonia).

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