News - September 1996

Lambda says attack on civil rights law misleads voters

Opponents of new amendments to the civil rights ordinance in Lansing, Michigan, want to fool voters and illegally obtain a voter referendum on the law, an attorney for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Aug. 6 in preparing for oral argument in the case.

Patricia M. Logue, managing attorney for Lambda's Midwest Regional Office, will ask the Michigan Court of Appeals on Wednesday to uphold a lower court's invalidation of referendum petitions. The petitions failed to disclose the text of Lansing's ordinance, as required by law.

Logue noted that when opponents of the ordinance circulated petitions for a voter referendum on the new law, they included misleading flyers making false claims that, for example, the law gives civil rights to child molesters or restricts what ministers can preach.

"Opponents of this civil rights law seem to think they can't win unless they can fool Lansing voters about what the law means," Logue said. "We are not afraid of a fair fight, and Lansing deserves a fair vote on a civil rights law that merely ensures discrimination protections for its residents," she said.

Passed by the Lansing City Council in March, the ordinance extends the city's protections against discrimination based on categories including race, sex, age, and disability into the areas of employment, public accommodations, and public services. The original law covered only housing discrimination. The amended law also forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, familial status, and other characteristics.

The Ingham County Circuit Court ruled on May 20, 1996, that opponents of the law must use new petitions that fully disclose what the ordinance actually does, in order to get their referendum on the November ballot. The City Clerk, which originally accepted the petitions, appealed.

Lambda, the nation's oldest and largest gay legal organization, and co-counsel Linda K. Henderson represent the Lansing Equal Rights Task Force in the appeal.

With a regional office in Chicago, Lambda is the only national lesbian and gay organization with an office in the Midwest. Lambda has its national headquarters in New York and a Western Regional Office in Los Angeles, with plans to open a Southern Regional Office in Atlanta in 1997.

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