Livonia City Council votes against non-discrimination ordinance to add protections for LGBTQ+

The Livonia City Council voted against a non-discrimination ordinance that would have added protections for LGBTQ+ people in real estate transactions, housing, employment, and public accommodations.

Read the full proposed ordinance below.

At Monday's meeting, two members voted in favor of the ordinance, while five voted against it. If passed, the ordinance would have imposed a $500 fine on people violating it. 

It would have been the first update to the city's non-discrimination ordinances since 1982.

"What are you saying when you say I don't want a non-discrimination ordinance? What you're saying, tacitly, is that it's OK for people to discriminate," said Peter Dale, who supports the ordinance. 

During the meeting, an LGBTQ+ family who left the city spoke to the council. 

"My wife and I spent many, many hours wondering if we were safe and welcomed in this community. I hear many of you tonight saying you don't see a Livonia that is discriminatory or unwelcoming," Lisa Lark said. "That is not the case for members of the LGBTQ+ community."

Historically Livonia had a reputation as the whitest big city and had been described as a sundown town, one that discriminated against African Americans in housing. It has also been accused of targeting people for driving while Black.

Residents say in recent years the city has started to diversify, and a non-discrimination ordinance would have symbolized a more welcoming community.

"This is just a very base-level thing that you do when you really are serious about being an inclusive community, but also it outlines a local way for us to deal with discrimination issues," said Delisha Upshaw, with the Livonia Equity and Anti-racism Network.

That was one of the problems with the ordinance for some on the city council.

"It obligates the city to investigate and prosecute discrimination claims that are already covered by state and federal laws," said councilman Scott Bahr.

City council vice president Laura Toy said no discrimination should be tolerated. However, she felt the ordinance didn't answer all of her questions.

"It focused on business, this particular ordinance. Who was going to be the one to be the judge and jury on that? And from what I heard it was going to be internal within the city, adding an extra layer of bureaucracy within the city?" she said.

The mayor has promised to find other ways to advance non-discrimination policies, but activists say they're already working to put it to another vote, this time to let the people of Livonia decide.

"We knew that we would end up needing to place this on the ballot so that it can be a truly democratic process, so the people who have the power get to say if this is something we want for our community or if it's something that we don't," Upshaw said.

Close to 60 communities in Michigan already have non-discrimination ordinances.