Sterling Heights to vote on ordinance prohibiting discrimination - Dallas News |

Sterling Heights to vote on ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation

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STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WJBK) - It's another battle involving gay rights in the seemingly never-ending culture wars. The latest front: Sterling Heights.

"There's a loophole in the law currently, and you can't get fired from your job for your race, gender, if you're Catholic or Jewish but, unfortunately, in the United States and specifically here in Sterling Heights you can be fired just because of your sexual orientation," says councilman Doug Skrzyniarz.

He introduced the ordinance that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

For partners and Sterling Heights firefighters Lisa Schultz and Tracy Davis the proposed legislation is more like a preemptive strike.

"Our city has treated us great but that doesn't mean that won't change in the future, you know, if we hire a different chief, city manager, mayor. I'm still hopefully looking at a 9-, 10-year career here and my job could be on the line," Schultz says.

They say much of the opposition is coming from the Sterling Heights religious community.

"What would Jesus do? If this came about in his time, would he not embrace these people?" asks Joe Romano, a Sterling Heights councilman.

"I do believe that Jesus loves everybody, that's not the problem. But Jesus says, 'I am love. Love everyone,' and he also says, 'I am the truth.' I believe that I have to stand up for the truth," says Father John Simoneau.

He is just one of many in Sterling Heights opposed to the ordinance.

Although there are exceptions for churches, religious organizations and any housing facilities they operate, Simoneau is concerned about religious business owners.

"This can open up to risky stuff," Father Simoneau says. "If somebody actually ends up getting sued because they say, 'Listen, I can't do this because I don't believe in that but you can go somewhere else, I mean there's no other problem,' I don't think there should be a reason and even a legal foundation to sue them."

"Religious freedom doesn't mean you have the freedom to discriminate even on religious grounds," says Skrzyniarz. "When you're providing services to your customers or your employees, you can't just use your own personal opinion or your faith to decide how you're going to treat other people in the community."

Supporters say the ordinance would be good for the economy, attracting a more diverse work base and companies that want to hire from it.

The debate over this issue is far from over and will soon come to a head

The City Council meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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