CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. — LGBTQ+ advocates feel unheard after years of fighting with the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners to enact broader protections.
For the last five years, co-president of Battle Creek Pride Deana Spencer has been fighting for the county to update its Equal Employment Opportunity police.
It currently reads:
"Calhoun County provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to employees and applicants for employment with regard to race, color, religion, age, weight, height, sex, national origin, genetic information, disability or veteran status. Calhoun County complies with all applicable federal, state, and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment in every location in which it has facilities."
Spencer has been working to get wording updated for the EEO policy for the last five years, but has been unsuccessful in getting the item onto an agenda or up for discussion.
"It’s important because it makes us visible. We are the last sector of the population to get any protections," said Spencer. "The fact that they haven’t even discussed it, you might as well be a slap us across the face. That just tells us that we aren’t even worthy of a discussion."
Spencer has been working with Commissioner Jake Smith recently to adopt the language. Smith over email called it "an effort to catch-up to where the business community and other units of government have been for several years now. It really shouldn't even be all that controversial, as it only impacts county employees and would put us in a place that those other entities (public and private) arrived at years ago."
Speaking on behalf of Calhoun County, Corporation Counsel Jim Dyer says the wording is not necessary because the LGBTQ+ community is already protected by federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It prohibits discrimination based on sexual identity.
Dyer told FOX 17 over the phone that there is "no need to implement something that is already in place."
Spencer disagrees with the reasoning, saying that other groups are specified in the EEO but also protected under federal or state legislation.
"You would not admit from protecting somebody based on their skin color or based on their socioeconomic status. You wouldn’t limit that language, and if they are already protected why have it in the first place? It’s the same principle," said Spencer.
Other counties have already passed similar updates to their language including Kalamazoo and Oakland County. Spencer says she was successful in 2013 in passing similar wording in the city of Battle Creek.
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