Warren City Council adopts city's first anti-discrimination ordinance

The Warren City Council approved the second reading of the city's first anti-discrimination ordinance in its 66-year history on July 11.

The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on age, color, disability, education, familial status, gender expression, gender identity, height, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or weight.

Discrimination is prohibited based on employment, housing, public accommodations, and public services.

"I commend my colleagues for joining me to swiftly pass this long-overdue legislation that brings Warren into the 21st century." Council President Patrick Green said. "This ordinance will help us increase the transparency and accountability that our residents and businesses expect from city government. There is simply no excuse for the third-largest city in Michigan not to have an anti-discrimination law."

The ordinance was proposed by Council President Green after the Bangladeshi Association of Michigan (BAM) alleged that a city official denied its request for an ethnic festival at the Warren City Square after accepting the organization’s deposit and signing a contract.

Jabed Chowdhury, the president of BAM, spoke during public comment at the council meeting on April 25 and alleged that his organization had been denied a permit for a festival at the Warren City Square because a city official said there would be no "ethnic" festivals. After the council heard BAM’s complaints, the dispute was publicized and the city subsequently honored the BAM contract and deposit for the festival.

The Warren City Council acted after discovering the city lacked a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance. The Council passed the ordinance by a 6-1 vote, with council member Eddie Kabacinski (District 5) as the lone vote in opposition.

The ordinance provides for complaint procedures through the Department of Human Resources and Risk Management Office and provides for penalties including fines. Additionally, an individual who is the victim of discriminatory action in Warren may bring a civil lawsuit for appropriate injunctive relief or damages or both against the person(s) who acted in violation of this article.

The ordinance also provides protections for free expression and religious freedom to comply with court cases protecting First Amendment rights. 

The council added section 7.5-4(h) to the ordinance following a United States Supreme Court decision on June 30 that protects individuals in the creative services industry from facing punishment under anti-discrimination laws in cases where they are asked to create messages with which the designer disagrees.