Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Back to the Garden


Lake Merritt is blooming. So incredibly beautiful.

The news. And the difference, laid out in two stories, back to back for me this morning. Michigan:

Earlier this year, the Royal Oak City Commission approved a human rights ordinance barring discrimination against residents on a number of fronts: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, weight, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical or mental limitation, source of income, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status...

But the ordinance hasn't taken effect. This month, resident Fred Birchard turned in a petition bearing 199 signatures, sufficient to suspend the ordinance pending the outcome of a broader signature-gathering effort... Proponents of the ordinance say that its detractors are painting wild and inflammatory scenarios -- Forced unisex public restrooms! Malevolent transvestites prowling locker rooms! -- to coerce residents to sign the anti-ordinance petition.

Now, plenty of enlightened cities in Michigan have passed language protecting orientation. "Huntington Woods, Ferndale, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Detroit and Kalamazoo" according to the editorial, and that's great - but that's not what is making news. Between Dave Agema's bigotry enjoying its 15 minutes of fame in the national spotlight, and stories like this (and others about Republicans passing laws that curtail women's health care rights and working people losing organizing and employment benefits), Michigan looks very unwelcoming from the outside.

Compare and contrast to Northern California:

The rainbow flag will fly at King Plaza in Palo Alto to show the city's overwhelming support for same-sex marriage as the highest court in the nation considers how to rule on the controversial issue.

The city council voted 6-0 late Monday night to give City Manager James Keene the discretion to raise the banner for gay pride as well as pass a resolution recognizing that 76 percent of voters in the city rejected state Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

"This is the civil rights issue of our time," Mayor Greg Scharff said. "I see no possible argument why people should not be allowed to marry whoever they wish."

And again, I'm sure there are plenty of cities in California that wouldn't do such a thing. It's not all liberal sweet dreams; after all, the state did pass Prop 8. There are plenty of "conservatives" here too. But still, the perception continues that this is the land of progress, of inclusiveness, of growth toward acceptance and understanding.

If you're a young person, looking for a area to settle down, make friends, grow a career and family, and have those loved ones around you live in freedom and equality, which place would you choose?

This is your challenge, Michigan. I hope that someday you rise to meet it.

Update: As if the universe granted an answer, this video of a gay proposal onstage at a concert in Detroit greeted me when I came home. Made my day.