YPSILANTI, Mich. – In a press conference May 8, the co-chair of the Ypsilanti Campaign for Equality (YCFE), Lisa Zuber, exposed the source of funding for a ballot initiative forced into this November’s election that would allow for discrimination against gay people.

Former Dominos Pizza CEO, and Ann Arbor, Mich., resident, Tom Monaghan wrote a check for nearly $7,000 in order to get his personal views of gay people placed on the ballot in Ypsilanti.

Only two donors were listed in official public documents obtained by YCFE. The other donor gave $19. Neither donor is qualified to vote in the city’s November elections, as they are not residents of Ypsilanti.

‘I am outraged,’ Zuber told reporters, ‘that outsiders are dictating to Ypsilanti what we are going to vote on and who can have freedom from discrimination here.’

In 1998 the city of Ypsilanti passed a landmark human rights ordinance that provided protection from discrimination based on ‘race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, having a disability, familial status, educational association, source of income, height or weight.’ This ordinance protects residents from discrimination in jobs, membership in labor unions, access to housing or other goods and services.

The current ballot initiative would overturn this ordinance.

‘What gets me,’ remarked Beth Bashert, co-chair of YCFE, ‘is that one person can write a check for thousands of dollars and force the people to hold another election.’

Though this particular campaign is directed against gay residents of Ypsilanti, lawyers for the YCFE are pretty sure that overturning this ordinance will negatively affect protections for people of color and other members of the community.

If right-wing backers of the anti-gay measure believe this ordinance gives ‘special’ privileges to gay people, how do they view the city’s policy regarding people in the other protected categories listed in the ordinance, the group asked.

After the ordinance passed in 1998, right-wing groups set out to overturn it. With the slogan ‘equal rights, not special rights,’ well-funded conservatives hired out-of-town signature gatherers to force reconsideration of the ordinance through a ballot initiative.

Volunteers living in the city collected only 26 signatures of the 1,100 on the conservative group’s petition. The others were obtained by paid petitioners from outside the city. After some investigation of the petition drive, it was found that the paid signature gatherers may have lied to or misled signers, even refusing to let them read the petition.

One petition signer told YCFE that the out-of-towners told her that she was signing a measure to help fathers visit their children. Another was told the measure opposed giving special insurance to certain city employees.

Monaghan, along with right-wing organizations such as the American Family Association, bankrolled ‘similar efforts in at least one city’ in Michigan, according to the YCFE press release.

YCFE organizers told reporters that they ‘don’t mind working hard … to keep our charter from being changed to allow discrimination against gay people.’

Ypsilanti has a strong history of diversity and efforts to protect equality, YCFE organizers said. That is why they feel the anti-gay measure will be overturned in November.

World readers can find out more about this campaign for human rights at www.ycfe.org.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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