Keep On Keepin' On

Teen Activist Justin Barr “Not Surprised” By Decision To Vote Down Non-Discrimination Law, Vows To Continue Crusade

Last month, Queerty reported about Greenville, Michigan teenager Justin Barr, who met with his city council to request it adopt a non-discrimination ordinance . Barr, 17, also campaigned for the Eureka Township, where the city of Greenville is located, to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance.

Barr was met with much support, but also some resistance, mainly from failed U.S. Senate candidate and American Family Association of Michigan President Gary Glenn, who wrote a letter requesting that no new ordinances be considered, citing nonsense about such laws threatening the safety of women and children in public restrooms.

After our article was posted, we reached out to Glenn for comment. He accused Queerty of making him out to be a “straw man” villain, before sending us a link to a study that said 51% of Michigan voters opposed same-sex marriage. While we appreciated his desire to share this information, we failed to see how it had anything to do with the issue at hand (non-discrimination laws in Greenville). When we asked for clarification, Glenn replied: “Got a plane to catch… literally.”

Unfortunately, it seems Glenn and other naysayers have won this battle. Last week, the Daily News reported that on August 13, the Eureka Township board voted 6-0 against the proposed non-discrimination ordinance. Eureka Township Supervisor Rodney Roy said that the Board’s decision not to adopt a non-discrimination law was based on some bizarre rationale that labeling people makes them unequal. “Everybody should be treated equal,” he said. “If you label them, they are not equal anymore.” Roy concluded by saying: “Eureka Charter Township will treat all persons with dignity, respect, and impartiality, without prejudice or discrimination.”

That’s nice. So why not make a law ensuring this–and giving folks a remedy when citizens do not live up to the ideal? Barr, who was unable to attend the meeting, told the Daily News afterwards: “Although I am greatly disappointed at the trustees’ actions tonight that have solidified my presence in Eureka Township as a second-class citizen, I am not surprised. From the start, the township had difficulty understanding any aspect of the legality of the proposed non-discrimination ordinance, let along their own procedures.” He continued: “In my mind, they failed to understand what the ordinance would do, which is to protect all citizens of the township from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, et cetera. Because of their ignorance on this issue, I can still be evicted from my house, forced to leave a business, or fired from a job because I am gay.”

But hope is not lost. Even though Eureka Township voted down a non-discrimination ordinance, the city council in Greenville has yet to formally announce their own decision. “Our time and energy is better spent focusing on getting an ordinance passed in Greenville,” Barr told the Daily News, “rather than arguing with people over an issue they simply do not understand.” Queerty reached out to Glenn for a comment regarding last week’s decision by the Eureka Township board. He wrote back to say, in official sounding language: “The American Family Association of Michigan commends the Eureka Township board for wisely deciding not to adopt an obviously discriminatory ordinance which would have threatened both religious freedom and the privacy rights of women and children in restrooms and other public facilities, including public schools.”

He concluded by writing: “We hope the Greenville City Council is wise enough to follow Eureka Township’s lead in protecting the religious freedoms and privacy of their citizens.”

A Facebook page called “Greenville Against Discrimination” was launched at the beginning of the summer to bring awareness to the issue. It is currently encouraging people to send letters supporting the non-discrimination ordinance to the mayor of Greenville and city council members. Photo credit: Daily News.